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SMOKE AND STEEL 



BY 
CARL SANDBURG 



Author of " Chicago Poems," 
" Cornhuskers " 




NEW YORK 

HARCOURT, BRACE AND HOWE 
1920 



COPYRIGHT, I92O, BY 
HARCOURT, BRACK AND HOWE, INC. 

PS 
3^37 



LIBRARY 

723324 
UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO 



THE QUINN A BODEN COMPANY 
RAHWAY. N. J 



Ct 
COL. EDWARD J. STEICHEN 

PAINTER OF NOCTURNES AND FACES, CAMERA ENGRAVER 

OF GLINTS AND MOMENTS, LISTENER TO BLUE 

EVENING WINDS AND NEW YELLOW ROSES, 

DREAMER AND FINDER, RIDER OF GREAT 

MORNINGS IN GARDENS, VALLEYS, 

BATTLES. 



Acknowledgments are due Poetry (Chicago), The 
New Republic, The Liberator, The Dial, and The 
Chicago Daily News for permission to reprint poems 
that appeared originally in their pages. 



CONTENTS 



SMOKE NIGHTS PAGE 

Smoke and Steel 3 

Five Towns on the B. & O n 

Work Gangs 12 

Pennsylvania 14 

Whirls 15 

PEOPLE WHO MUST 

People Who Must 19 

Alley Rats 20 

Eleventh Avenue Racket 21 

Home Fires 22 

Hats 23 

They All Want to Play Hamlet 24 

^ The Mayor of Gary 25 

Omaha 26 

Galoots 27 

Crabapple Blossoms 28 

Real Estate News 30 

Manual System 31 

Stripes 32 

Honky Tonk in Cleveland, Ohio 33 

Crapshooters 34 

Soup 35 

Clinton South of Polk 36 

Blue Island Intersection 

Red-headed Restaurant Cashier 

Boy and Father 39 

Clean Curtains 41 

Crimson Changes People 42 

Neighbors 44 

Cahoots 45 

Blue Maroons 46 

ftThe H^pgrnan & I^pme . 

Man, the Man-Hunter 

The Sins of Kalamazoo 49 

V 



vi Contents 

BROKEN-FACE GARGOYLES PAGE 

Broken-face Gargoyles 57 

Aprons of Silence 59 

jfcDeath Snips Proud Men 60 

Good-night . . 61 

Shirt 62 

> Jazz Fantasia 63 

CJcTYou Want Affidavits? 64 

Old-fashioned Requited Love 65 

Purple Martins 66 

Brass Keys 68 

Pick Offs . 69 

Manufactured Gods 70 

Mask 71 

PLAYTHINGS OF THE WIND 

Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind ... 75 

Broken Tabernacles 78 

Ossawatomie 79 

Long Guns 81 

Dusty Doors 82 

Flash Crimson 83 

The Lawyers Know Too Much 85 

Losers 87 

Places 88 

Threes 89 

The Liars 90 

Prayers After World War ... 93 

A. E. F 94 

Bas-Relief 95 

Carlovingian Dreams 96 

Bronzes 97 

Let Love Go On 98 

*tKj]lpcg 99 

Clean Hands 100 

. Three Ghosts 102 

Pencils 103 

Jug 105 

And This Will be All? 106 

Hoodlums 107 

Yes, the Dead Speak to Us 109 

MIST FORMS 

Calls 115 

Sea-Wash 116 



Silver Wind 
Evening Waterfall 



H7 
118 



Contents vii 

PAGE 

Crucible 119 

Summer Stars 120 

Throw Roses 121 

Just Before April Came 122 

Stars, Songs, Faces 123 

Sandpipers 124 

Three Violins 125 

The Wind Sings Welcome in Early Spring . . 126 

Tawny 127 

Slippery 128 

Helga 129 

Baby Toes ... 130 

People With Proud Chins 



Winter Milk 

Sleepyheads . ^ . 

Sumach and Birds 

Women Washing Their Hair . 

Peach Blossoms . 

Half Moon in a High Wind 



132 

133 
134 



'37 



Remorse 138 

River Moons 139 

Sand Scribblings 140 

How Yesterday Looked 141 

Paula 142 

Laughing Blue Steel 143 

They Ask Each Other Where They Came From . 144 

How Much? 145 

Throwbacks : 146 

Wind Song 147 

Three Spring Notations on Bipeds 148 

Sandhill People ......... 150 

Far Rockaway Night till Morning 151 

Humming Bird Woman 152 

Buckwheat 153 

Blue Ridge 154 

Valley Song 155 

Mist Forms 156 

Pigeon 157 

Chasers 158 

Horse Fiddle 159 

Timber Wings 101 

Night Stuff 162 

Spanish 163 

Shagbark Hickory 164 

The South Wind Say So 165 



viii Contents 

ACCOMPLISHED FACTS PAGE 

Accomplished Facts 169 

Grieg Being Dead 170 

Chords 171 

Jack London 172 

Trinity Place 173 

Portrait . . 174 

Potomac River Mist 175 

Soapy and the Sea Wolf 176 

His Own Face Hidden . . . . ' . . . 177 

Cups of Coffee 178 

PASSPORTS 

Smoke Rose Gold 181 

Tangibles 182 

Night Movement New York 183 

North Atlantic 184 

Portrait 188 

lying "Fish 189 

Home Thoughts . 190 

In the Shadow of the Palace 191 

Two Items 192 

Streets Too Old 193 

Savoir Faire 194 

Mohammed Bek Hadjetlache 196 

High Conspiratorial Persons 197 

Baltic Fog Notes . . 198 

CIRCLES OF DOORS 

Circles of Doors 203 

Hate 204 

Two Strangers Breakfast 205 

Snow 206 

Dancer 207 

Plaster 208 

Curse of a Rich Polish Peasant on His Sister Who 

Ran Away With a Wild Man 209 

Woman With a Past 210 

White Hands 211 

An Electric Sign Goes Dark 212 

They Buy With an Eye to Looks 214 

Proud and Beautiful 215 

Telegram 216 

Glimmer 217 

White Ash 218 

Testimony Regarding a Ghost 219 



Contents ix 

PAGE 

Put Off the Wedding Five Times and Nlobody 

Comes to It 220 

Baby Vamps 222 

Vaudeville Dancer . . ... . . . 223 

Balloon Faces 224 

HAZE 

Haze 229 

Cadenza 232 

Memoranda 233 

Potomac Town in February 234 

Buffalo Dusk 235 

Corn Hut Talk 236 

Branches 238 

Rusty Crimson 239 

Letter S 240 

Weeds 241 

New Farm Tractor 242 

Pods 243 

Harvest Sunset 244 

Nights Nothings Again 245 

PANELS 

Panels 253 

Dan 254 

Whiffletree 255 

Mascots 256 

The Skyscraper Loves Night 257 

258 



Never Born 
Thin Strips . 
Five Cent Balloons 
My People 



261 



Swirl 262 

Wistful 263 

Basket 264 

Fire Pages 265 

Finish 266 

For You . . 267 



SMOKE NIGHTS 



SMOKE AND STEEL 

SMOKE of the fields in spring is one, 

Smoke of the leaves in autumn another. 

Smoke of a steel-mill roof or a battleship funnel, 

They all go up in a line with a smokestack, 

Or they twist ... in the slow twist ... of the wind. 

If the north wind comes they run to the south. 
If the west wind comes they run to the east. 

By this sign 

all smokes 

know each other. 

Smoke of the fields in spring and leaves in autumn, 
Smoke of the finished steel, chilled and blue, 
By the oath of work they swear : " I know you." 

Hunted and hissed from the center 
Deep down long ago when God made us over, 
Deep down are the cinders we came from 
You and I and our heads of smoke. 



Some of the smokes God dropped on the job 
Cross on the sky and count our years 
And sing in the secrets of our numbers ; 
Sing their dawns and sing their evenings, 
Sing an old log-fire song: 

3 



4 Smoke and Steel 

You may put the damper up, 

You may put the damper down, 

The smoke goes up the chimney just the same. 

Smoke of a city sunset skyline, 
Smoke of a country dusk horizon 

They cross on the sky and count our years. 



Smoke of ' a brick-red dust 

Winds on a spiral 

Out of the stacks 

For a hidden and glimpsing moon. 
This, said the bar-iron shed to the blooming mill, 
This is the slang of coal and steel. 
The day-gang hands it to the night-gang, 
The night-gang hands it back. 

Stammer at the slang of this 
Let us understand half of it. 

In the rolling mills and sheet mills, 

In the harr and boom of the blast fires, 

The smoke changes its shadow 

And men change their shadow; 

A nigger, a wop, a bohunk changes. 

A bar of steel it is only 

Smoke at the heart of it, smoke and the blood of a man. 
A runner of fire ran in it, ran out, ran somewhere else, 
And left smoke and the blood of a man 
And the finished steel, chilled and blue. 




Smoke and Steel 7 

So fire runs in, runs out, runs somewhere elstd men in 
And the bar of steel is a gun, a wheel, a nail, a S A 
A rudder under the sea, a steering-gear in the sky jMng 
And always dark in the heart and through it, 

Smoke and the blood of a man. 

Pittsburg, Youngstown, Gary they make their steel 
with men. 



In the blood of men and the ink of chimneys 

The smoke nights write their oaths : 

Smoke into steel and blood into steel ; 

Homestead, Braddock, Birmingham, they make their 

steel with men. 
Smoke and blood is the mix of steel. 

The birdmen drone 

in the blue ; it is steel 

a motor sings and zooms. 



Steel barb-wire around The Works. 

Steel guns in the holsters of the guards at the gates of 
The Works. 

Steel ore-boats bring the loads clawed from the earth 
by steel, lifted and lugged by arms of steel, sung 
on its way by the clanking clam-shells. 

The runners now, the handlers now, are steel ; they dig 
and clutch and haul; they hoist their automatic 
knuckles from job to job; they are steel making 
steel. 



Smoke and Steel 

Yodust and air fight in the furnaces ; the pour is 
.imed, the billets wriggle ; the clinkers are dumped : 
iners on the sea, skyscrapers on the land ; diving steel 
in the sea, climbing steel in the sky. 



Finders in the dark, you Steve with a dinner bucket, 
you Steve clumping in the dusk on the sidewalks 
with an evening paper for the woman and kids, 
you Steve with your head wondering where we 
all end up 

Finders in the dark, Steve : I hook my arm in cinder 
sleeves; we go down the street together; it is all 
the same to us ; you Steve and the rest of us end 
oil the same stars; we all wear a hat in hell 
together, in hell or heaven. 

Smoke nights now, Steve. 
Smoke, smoke, lost in the sieves of yesterday ; 
Dumped again to the scoops and hooks today. 
Smoke like the clocks and whistles, always. 

Smoke nights now. 

To-morrow something else. 



Luck moons come and go: 

Five men swim in a pot of red steel. 

Their bones are kneaded into the bread of steel : 

Their bones are knocked into coils and anvils 

And the sucking plungers of sea-fighting turbines. 

Look for them in the woven frame of a wireless station. 



. 



Smoke and Steel 7 

So ghosts hide in steel like heavy-armed men in 

mirrors. 
Peepers, skulkers they shadow-dance in laughing 

tombs. 
They are always there and they never answer. 

One of them said : " I like my job, the company is 

good to me, America is a wonderful country." 
One: "Jesus, my bones ache; the company is a liar; 

this is a free country, like hell." 
One : " I got a girl, a peach ; we save up and go on a 

farm and raise pigs and be the boss ourselves." 
And the others were roughneck singers a long ways 

from home. 
Look for them back of a steel vault door. 

They laugh at the cost. 

They lift the birdmen into the blue. 

It is steel a motor sings and zooms. 

In the subway plugs and drums, 
In the slow hydraulic drills, in gumbo or gravel, 
Under dynamo shafts in the webs of armature spiders, 
They shadow-dance and laugh at the cost. 



The ovens light a red dome. 

Spools of fire wind and wind. 

Quadrangles of crimson sputter. 

The lashes of dying maroon let down. 

Fire and wind wash out the slag. 

Forever the slag gets washed in fire and wind. 



8 Smoke and Steel 

The anthem learned by the steel is: 

Do this or go hungry. 
Look for our rust on a plow. 
Listen to us in a threshing-engine razz. 
Look at our job in the running wagon wheat. 



Fire and wind wash at the slag. 

Box-cars, clocks, steam-shovels, churns, pistons, boilers, 
scissors 

Oh, the sleeping slag from the mountains, the slag- 
heavy pig-iron will go down many roads. 

Men will stab and shoot with it, and make butter and 
tunnel rivers, and mow hay in swaths, and slit 
hogs and skin beeves, and steer airplanes across 
North America, Europe, Asia, round the world. 

Hacked from a hard rock country, broken and baked 
in mills and smelters, the rusty dust waits 

Till the clean hard weave of its atoms cripples and 
blunts the drills chewing a hole in it. 

The steel of its plinths and flanges is reckoned, O God, 
in one-millionth of an inch. 



Once when I saw the curves of fire, the rough scarf 

women dancing, 
Dancing out of the flues and smoke-stacks flying hair 

of fire, flying feet upside down; 
Buckets and baskets of fire exploding and chortling, 

fire running wild out of the steady and fastened 

ovens ; 



Smoke and Steel 9 

Sparks cracking a harr-harr-huff from a solar-plexus 
of rock-ribs of the earth taking a laugh for them- 
selves ; 

Ears and noses of fire, gibbering gorilla arms of fire, 
gold mud-pies, gold bird-wings, red jackets riding 
purple mules, scarlet autocrats tumbling from the 
humps of camels, assassinated czars straddling 
vermillion balloons; 

I saw then the fires flash one by one: good-by: then 
smoke, smoke; 

And in the screens the great sisters of night and cool 
stars, sitting women arranging their hair, 

Waiting in the sky, waiting with slow easy eyes, wait- 
ing and half-murmuring: 
" Since you know all 
and I know nothing, 
tell me what I dreamed last night." 



Pearl cobwebs in the windy rain, 

in only a flicker of wind, 

are caught and lost and never known again. 

A pool of moonshine comes and waits, 
but never waits long : the wind picks up 
loose gold like this and is gone. 

A bar of steel sleeps and looks slant-eyed 

on the pearl cobwebs, the pools of moonshine; 

sleeps slant-eyed a million years, 



IO Smoke and Steel 

sleeps with a coat of rust, a vest of moths, 
a shirt of gathering sod and loam. 

The wind never bothers ... a bar of steel. 
The wind picks only . . pearl cobwebs . . pools 
of moonshine. 



Smoke and Steel 



II 



FIVE TOWNS ON THE B. AND O. 



BY day . . . tireless smokestacks . . . hungry smoky 
shanties hanging to the slopes . . . crooning: 
We get by, that's all. 

By night ... all lit up ... fire-gold bars, fire-gold 
flues . . . and the shanties shaking in clumsy 
shadows . . . almost the hills shaking ... all 
crooning: By God, we're going to find out or 
know why. 



J2 Smoke and Sfeel 



WORK GANGS 

Box cars run by a mile long. 

And I wonder what they say to each other 

When they stop a mile long on a sidetrack. 

Maybe their chatter goes : 
I came from Fargo with a load of wheat up to the 

danger line. 
I came from Omaha with a load of shorthorns and 

they splintered my boards. 

I came from Detroit heavy with a load of flivvers. 
I carried apples from the Hood river last year and this 

year bunches of bananas from Florida; they look 

for me with watermelons from Mississippi next 

year. 



Hammers and shovels of work gangs sleep in shop 

corners 
when the dark stars come on the sky and the night 

watchmen walk and look. 



Then the hammer heads talk to the handles, 

then the scoops of the shovels talk, 

how the day's work nicked and trimmed them, 

how they swung and lifted all day, 

how the hands of the work gangs smelled of hope. 



Work Gangs 13 

In the night of the dark stars 

when the curve of the sky is a work gang handle, 

in the night on the mile long sidetracks, 

in the night where the hammers and shovels sleep in 

corners, 

the night watchmen stuff their pipes with dreams 
and sometimes they doze and don't care for nothin', 
and sometimes they search their heads for meanings, 
stories, stars. 

The stuff of it runs like this : 
A long way we come ; a long way to go ; long rests and 

long deep sniffs for our lungs on the way. 
Sleep is a belonging of all; even if all songs are old 
songs and the singing heart is snuffed out like a 
switchman's lantern with the oil gone, even if we 
forget our names and houses in the finish, the 
secret of sleep is left us, sleep belongs to all, 
sleep is the first and last and best of all. 

People singing; people with song mouths connecting 
with song hearts; people who must sing or die; 
people whose song hearts break if there is no 
song mouth; these are my people. 



14 Smoke and Steel 



PENNSYLVANIA 

I HAVE been in Pennsylvania, 

In the Monongahela and the Hocking Valleys. 

In the blue Susquehanna 

On a Saturday morning 

I saw the mounted constabulary go by, 

I saw boys playing marbles. 

Spring and the hills laughed. 

And in places 

Along the Appalachian chain, 
I saw steel arms handling coal and iron, 
And I saw the white-cauliflower faces 
Of miners' wives waiting for the men to come home 
from the day's work. 

I made color studies in crimson and violet 
Over the dust and domes of culm at sunset. 






Smoke and Steel 15 



WHIRLS 

NEITHER rose leaves gathered in a jar respectably in 
Boston these nor drops of Christ blood for a 
chalice decently in Philadelphia or Baltimore. 

Cinders these hissing in a marl and lime of Chicago 
also these the howling of northwest winds 
across North and South Dakota or the spatter 
of winter spray on sea rocks of Kamchatka. 



PEOPLE WHO MUST 



Smoke and Steel 19 



PEOPLE WHO MUST 

I PAINTED on the roof of a skyscraper. 

I painted a long while and called it a day's work. 

The people on a corner swarmed and the traffic cop's 

whistle never let up all afternoon. 
They were the same as bugs, many bugs on their way 
Those people on the go or at a standstill ; 
And the traffic cop a spot of blue, a splinter of brass, 
Where the black tides ran around him 
And he kept the street. I painted a long while 
And called it a day's work. 



2O Smoke and. Steel 



ALLEY RATS 

THEY \yere calling certain styles of whiskers by the 

name of " lilacs." 
And another manner of beard assumed in their chatter 

a verbal guise 
Of " mutton chops," " galways," " feather dusters." 

Metaphors such as these sprang from their lips while 
other street cries 

Sprang from sparrows rinding scattered oats among 
interstices of the curb. 

Ah-hah these metaphors and Ah-hah these boys 
among the police they were known 

As the Dirty Dozen and their names took the front 
pages of newspapers 

And two of them croaked on the same day at a " neck- 
tie party " . . . if we employ the metaphors of 
their lips. 



Smoke and Steel 21 



ELEVENTH AVENUE RACKET 

THERE is something terrible 

about a hurdy-gurdy, 

a gipsy man and woman, 

and a monkey in red flannel 

all stopping in front of a big house 

with a sign " For Rent " on the door 

and the blinds hanging loose 

and nobody home. 

I never saw this. 

I hope to God I never will. 

Whoop-de-doodle-de-doo. 
Hoodle-de-harr-de-hum. 
Nobody home? Everybody home. 

Whoop-de-doodle-de-doo. 

Mamie Riley married Jimmy Higgins last night : Eddie 
Jones died of whooping cough : George Hacks got 
a job on the police force : the Rosenheims bought 
a brass bed: Lena Hart giggled at a Jackie: a 
pushcart man called tomaj/toes, tomaytoes. 
Whoop-de-doodle-de-doo. 
Hoodle-de-harr-de-hum. 

Nobody home ? Everybody home. 



22 Smoke and Steel 



HOME FIRES 

IN a Yiddish eating place on Rivington Street . . . 
faces . . . coffee spots . . . children kicking at 
the night stars with bare toes from bare buttocks. 

They know it is September on Rivington when the red 
tomaytoes cram the pushcarts, 

Here the children snozzle at milk bottles, children who 
have never seen a cow. 

Here the stranger wonders how so many people re- 
member where they keep home fires. 



Smoke and Steel 23 



HATS 

HATS, where do you belong? 
what is under you? 

On the rim of a skyscraper's forehead 

I looked down and saw : hats : fifty thousand hats: 

Swarming with a noise of bees and sheep, cattle and 

waterfalls, 
Stopping with a silence of sea grass, a silence of 

prairie corn. 

Hats: tell me your high hopes. 






24 Smoke and Steel 



THEY ALL WANT TO PLAY HAMLET 

THEY all want to play Hamlet. 

They have not exactly seen their fathers killed 

Nor their mothers in a frame-up to kill, 

Nor an Ophelia dying with a dust gagging the heart, 

Not exactly the spinning circles of singing golden 

spiders, 

Not exactly this have they got at nor the meaning of 
flowers O flowers, flowers slung by a dancing 
girl in the saddest play the inkfish, Shakespeare, 
ever wrote; 

Yet they all want to play Hamlet because it is sad 
like all actors are sad and to stand by an open 
grave with a joker's skull in the hand and then 
to say over slow and say over slow wise, keen, 
beautiful words masking a heart that's breaking, 
breaking, 

This is something that calls and calls to their blood. 
They are acting when they talk about it and they know 
it is acting to be particular about it and yet : They 
all want to play Hamlet. 






Smoke and Steel 2$ 



THE MAYOR OF GARY 

I ASKED the Mayor of Gary about the 12-hour day 
and the 7-day week. 

And the Mayor of Gary answered more workmen steal 
time on the job in Gary than any other place in 
the United States. 

"Go into the plants and you will see men sitting 
around doing nothing machinery does every- 
thing," said the Mayor of Gary when I asked 
him about the 12-hour day and the 7-day week. 

And he wore cool cream pants, the Mayor of Gary, 
and white shoes, and a barber had fixed him up 
with a shampoo and a shave and he was easy 
and imperturbable though the government weather 
bureau thermometer said 96 and children were 
soaking their heads at bubbling fountains on the 
street corners. 

And I said good-by to the Mayor of Gary and I went 
out from the city hall ancl turned the corner into 
Broadway. 

And I saw workmen wearing leather shoes scruffed 
with fire and cinders, and pitted with little holes 
from running molten steel, 

And some had bunches of specialized muscles around 
their shoulder blades hard as pig iron, muscles 
of their fore-arms were sheet steel and they looked 
to me like men who had been somewhere. 

Gary, Indiana, 1915. 



26 Smoke and Steel 



OMAHA 

RED barns and red heifers spot the green 
grass circles around Omaha the farmers 
haul tanks of cream and wagon loads of 
cheese. 

Shale hogbacks across the river at Council 
Bluffs and shanties hang by an eyelash to 
the hill slants back around Omaha. 

A span of steel ties up the kin of Iowa and 
Nebraska across the yellow, big-hoofed Missouri 
River. 

Omaha, the roughneck, feeds armies, 

Eats and swears from a dirty face. 

Omaha works to get the world a breakfast. 



Smoke and Steel 27 



GALOOTS 

GALOOTS, you hairy, hankering, 

Snousle on the bones you eat, chew at the gristle and 

lick the last of it. 
Grab off the bones in the paws of other galoots hook 

your claws in their sleazy mouths snap and run. 
If long-necks sit on their rumps and sing wild cries 

to the winter moon, chasing their tails to the 

flickers of foolish stars ... let 'em howl. 
Galoots fat with too much, galoots lean with too little, 

galoot millions and millions, snousle and snicker 

on, plug your exhausts, hunt your snacks of fat 

and lean, grab off yours. 



28 Smoke and Steel 



CRABAPPLE BLOSSOMS 

SOMEBODY'S little girl how easy to make a sob 
story over who she was once and who she is 
now. 

Somebody's little girl she played once under a crab- 
apple tree in June and the blossoms fell on the 
dark hair. 

It was somewhere on the Erie line and the town was 
Salamanca or Painted Post or Horse's Head. 

And out of her hair she shook the blossoms and went 
into the house and her mother washed her face 
and her mother had an ache in her heart at a rebel 
voice, " I don't want to." 

Somebody's little girl forty little girls of somebodies 
splashed in red tights forming horseshoes, arches, 
pyramids forty little show girls, ponies, squabs. 

How easy a sob story over who she once was and who 
she is now and how the crabapple blossoms fell 
on her dark hair in June. 

Let the lights of Broadway spangle and splatter and 
the taxis hustle the crowds away when the show 
is over and the street goes dark. 



Crabapple Blossoms 29 

Let the girls wash off the paint and go for their mid- 
night sandwiches let 'em dream in the morning 
sun, late in the morning, long after the morning 
papers and the milk wagons 

Let 'em dream long as they want to ... of June 
somewhere on the Erie line . . . and crabapple 
blossoms. 



3O Smoke and Steel 



REAL ESTATE NEWS 

ARMOUR AVENUE was the name of this street and door 
signs on empty houses read " The Silver Dollar," 
" Swede Annie " and the Christian names of 
madams such as " Myrtle " and " Jenny." 

Scrap iron, rags and bottles fill the front rooms hither 
and yon and signs in Yiddish say Abe Kaplan & 
Co. are running junk shops in whore houses of 
former times. 

The segregated district, the Tenderloin, is here no 
more ; the red-lights are gone ; the ring of shovels 
handling scrap iron replaces the banging of pianos 
and the bawling songs of pimps. 
Chicago, 1915. 



Smoke and Steel 31 



MANUAL SYSTEM 

MARY has a thingamajig clamped on her ears 

And sits all day taking plugs out and sticking plugs in. 

Flashes and flashes voices and voices 

calling for ears to pour words in 
Faces at the ends of wires asking for other faces 

at the ends of other wires : 
All day taking plugs out and sticking plugs in, 
Mary has a thingamajig clamped on her ears.' 



32 Smoke and Steel 



STRIPES 

POLICEMAN in front of a bank 3 A.M. . . . lonely. 
Policeman State and Madison . . . high noon . . . 
mobs . . . cars . . . parcels . . . lonely. 

Woman in suburbs . . . keeping night watch on a 
sleeping typhoid patient . . . only a clock to talk 
to ... lonesome. 

Woman selling gloves ... bargain day department 
store . . . furious crazy-work of many hands 
slipping in and out of gloves . . . lonesome. 



Smoke and Steel 33 



HONKY TONK IN CLEVELAND, OHIO 

IT'S a jazz affair, drum crashes and cornet razzes. 
The trombone pony neighs and the tuba jackass snorts. 
The banjo tickles and titters too awful. 
The chippies talk about the funnies in the papers. 
The cartoonists weep in their beer. 
Ship riveters talk with their feet 
To the feet of floozies under the tables. 
A quartet of white hopes mourn with interspersed 
snickers : 

" I got the blues. 
I got the blues. 
I got the blues." 
And . . . as we said earlier: 

The cartoonists weep in their beer. 



34 Smoke and Steel 



CRAPSHOOTERS 

SOMEBODY loses whenever somebody wins. 

This was known to the Chaldeans long ago. 

And more: somebody wins whenever somebody loses. 

This too was in the savvy of the Chaldeans. 

They take it heaven's hereafter is an eternity of crap 
games where they try their wrists years and years 
and no police come with a wagon ; the game goes 
on forever. 

The spots on the dice are the music signs of the songs 
of heaven here. 

God is Luck: Luck is God: we are all bones the 
High Thrower rolled: some are two spots, some 
double sixes. 

The myths are Phoebe, Little Joe, Big Dick. 

Hope runs high with a : Huh, seven huh, come seven 

This too was in the savvy of the Chaldeans. 



Smoke and Steel 35 



SOUP 

I SAW a famous man eating soup. 

I say he was lifting a fat broth 

Into his mouth with a spoon. 

His name was in the newspapers that day 

Spelled out in tall black headlines 

And thousands of people were talking about him. 

When I saw him, 

He sat bending his head over a plate 
Putting soup in his mouth with a spoon. 



36 Smoke and Steel 



CLINTON SOUTH OF POLK 

I WANDER down on Clinton street south of Polk 
And listen to the voices of Italian children quarreling. 
It is a cataract of coloratura 

And I could sleep to their musical threats and accusa- 
tions. 



Smoke and Steel 37 



BLUE ISLAND INTERSECTION 

Six street ends come together here. 

They feed people and wagons into the center. 

In and out all day horses with thoughts of nose-bags, 

Men with shovels, women with baskets and baby 

buggies. 

Six ends of streets and no sleep for them all day. 
The people and wagons come and go, out and in. 
Triangles of banks and drug stores watch. 
The policemen whistle, the trolley cars bump : 
Wheels, wheels, feet, feet, all day. 

In the false dawn when the chickens blink 
And the east shakes a lazy baby toe at to-morrow, 
And the east fixes a pink half-eye this way, 
In the time when only one milk wagon crosses 
These three streets, these six street ends, 
It is the sleep time and they rest. 
The triangle banks and drug stores rest. 
The policeman is gone, his star and gun sleep. 
The owl car blutters along in a sleep-walk. 



38 Smoke and Steel 



RED-HEADED RESTAURANT CASHIER 

SHAKE back your hair, O red-headed girl. 

Let go your laughter and keep your two proud freckles 

on your chin. 
Somewhere is a man looking for a red-headed girl and 

some day maybe he will look into your eyes for a 

restaurant cashier and find a lover, maybe. 
Around and around go ten thousand men hunting a 

red headed girl with two freckles on her chin. 
I have seen them hunting, hunting. 

Shake back your hair; let go your laughter. 






Smoke and Steel 39 



BOY AND FATHER 

THE boy Alexander understands his father to be a 

famous lawyer. 
The leather law books of Alexander's father fill a 

room like hay in a barn. 
Alexander has asked his father to let him build a house 

like bricklayers build, a house with walls and 

roofs made of big leather law books. 

The rain beats on the windows 

And the raindrops run down the window glass 

And the raindrops slide off the green blinds 

down the siding. 

The boy Alexander dreams of Napoleon in John C. 
Abbott's history, Napoleon the grand and lonely 
man wronged, Napoleon in his life wronged and 
in his memory wronged. 

The boy Alexander dreams of the cat Alice saw, the 
cat fading off into the dark and leaving the teeth 
of its Cheshire smile lighting the gloom. 

Buffaloes, blizzards, way down in Texas, in the pan- 
handle of Texas snuggling close to New Mexico, 

These creep into Alexander's dreaming by the window 
when his father talks with strange men about 
land down in Deaf Smith County. 



40 Boy and Father 

Alexander's father tells the strange men: Five years 
ago we ran a Ford out on the prairie and chased 
antelopes. 

Only once or twice in a long while has Alexander heard 
his father say " my first wife " so-and-so and 
such-and-such. 

A few times softly the father has told Alexander, 
" Your mother . . . was a beautiful woman . . . 
but we won't talk about her." 

Always Alexander listens with a keen listen when he 
hears his father mention " my first wife " or " Al- 
exander's mother." 

Alexander's father smokes a cigar and the Episcopal 
rector smokes a cigar and the words come often : 
mystery of life, mystery of life. 

These two come into Alexander's head blurry and gray 
while the rain beats on the windows and the rain- 
drops run down the window glass and the rain- 
drops slide off the green blinds and down the 
siding. 

These and : There is a God, there must be a God, how 
can there be rain or sun unless there is a God? 

So from the wrongs of Napoleon and the Cheshire cat 
smile on to the buffaloes and blizzards of Texas 
and on to his mother and to God, so the blurry 
gray rain dreams of Alexander have gone on five 
minutes, maybe ten, keeping slow easy time to the 
raindrops on the window glass and the raindrops 
sliding off the green blinds and down the siding. 



Smoke and Steel 411 



CLEAN CURTAINS 

NEW neighbors came to the corner house at Congress 
and Green streets. 

The look of their clean white curtains was the same 
as the rim of a nun's bonnet. 

One way was an oyster pail factory, one way they 
made candy, one way paper boxes, strawboard 
cartons. 

The warehouse trucks shook the dust of the ways 
loose and the wheels whirled dust there was 
dust of hoof and wagon wheel and rubber tire 
dust of police and fire wagons dust of the winds 
that circled at midnights and noon listening to no 
prayers. 

" O mother, I know the heart of you," I sang passing 
the rim of a nun's bonnet O white curtains and 
people clean as the prayers of Jesus here in the 
faded ramshackle at Congress and Green. 

Dust and the thundering trucks won the barrages of 
the street wheels and the lawless wind took their 
way was it five weeks or six the little mother, 
the new neighbors, battled and then took away 
the white prayers in the windows? 



42 Smoke and Steel 



CRIMSON CHANGES PEOPLE 

DID I see a crucifix in your eyes 
and nails and Roman soldiers 
and a dusk Golgotha? 

Did I see Mary, the changed woman, 

washing the feet of all men, 

clean as new grass 

when the old grass burns? 

Did I see moths in your eyes, lost moths, 
with a flutter of wings that meant: 
we can never come again. 

Did I see No Man's Land in your eyes 
and men with lost faces, lost loves, 
and you among the stubs crying? 

Did I see you in the red death jazz of war 
losing moths among lost faces, 
speaking to the stubs who asked you 
to speak of songs and God and dancing, 
of bananas, northern lights or Jesus, 
any hummingbird of thought whatever- 
flying away from the red death jazz of war? 



Crimson Changes People 43 

Did I see your hand make a useless gesture 
trying to say with a code of five fingers 
something the tongue only stutters? 
did I see a dusk Golgotha? 



44 Smoke and Steel 



NEIGHBORS 

ON Forty First Street 
near Eighth Avenue 
a frame house wobbles. 

If houses went on crutches 
this house would be 
one of the cripples. 

A sign on the house: 

Church of the Living God 

And Rescue Home for Orphan Children. 

From a Greek coffee house 

Across the street 

A cabalistic jargon 

Jabbers back. 

And men at tables 

Spill Peloponnesian syllables 

And speak of shovels for street work. 

And the new embankments of the Erie Railroad 

At Painted Post, Horse's Head, Salamanca. 



Smoke and Steel 45 



CAHOOTS 

PLAY it across the table. 

What if we steal this city blind? 

If they want any thing let 'em nail it down. 

Harness bulls, dicks, front office men, 
And the high goats up on the bench, 
Ain't they all in cahoots ? 
Ain't it fifty-fifty all down the line, 
Petemen, dips, boosters, stick-ups and guns 
what's to hinder? 

Go fifty-fifty. 

If they nail you call in a mouthpiece. 
Fix it, you gazump, you slant-head, fix it. 

Feed 'em. . . . 

Nothin' ever sticks to my fingers, nah, nah, 

nothin' like that, 
But there ain't no law we got to wear mittens 

huh is there? 

Mittens, that's a good one mittens! 
There oughta be a law everybody wear mittens. 



46 Smoke and Steel 



BLUE MAROONS 

" You slut," he flung at her. 
It was more than a hundred times 
He had thrown it into her face 
And by this time it meant nothing to her. 
She said to herself upstairs sweeping, 
" Clocks are to tell time with, pitchers 
Hold milk, spoons dip out gravy, and a 
Coffee pot keeps the respect of those 
Who drink coffee I am a woman whose 
Husband gives her a kiss once for ten 
Times he throws it in my face, ' You slut/ 
If I go to a small town and him along 
Or if I go to a big city and him along, 
What of it? Am I better off?" She swept 
The upstairs and came downstairs to fix 
Dinner for the family. 



Smoke and Steel 47 



THE HANGMAN AT HOME 

WHAT does the hangman think about 
When he goes home at night from work? 
When he sits down with his wife and 
Children for a cup of coffee and a 
Plate of ham and eggs, do they ask 
Him if it was a good day's work 
And everything went well or do they 
Stay off some topics and talk about 
The weather, base ball, politics 
And the comic strips in the papers 
And the movies? Do they look at his 
Hands when he reaches for the coffee 
Or the ham and eggs? If the little 
Ones say, Daddy, play horse, here's 
A rope does he answer like a joke: 
I seen enough rope for today? 
Or does his face light up like a 
Bonfire of joy and does he say: 
It's a good and dandy world we live 
In. And if a white face moon looks 
In through a window where a baby girl 
Sleeps and the moon gleams mix with 
Baby ears and baby hair the hangman 
How does he act then? It must be easy 
For him. Anything is easy for a hangman, 
I guess. 



48 Smoke and Steel 



MAN, THE MAN-HUNTER 

I SAW Man, the man-hunter, 
Hunting with a torch in one hand 
And a kerosene can in the other, 
Hunting with guns, ropes, shackles. 

I listened 

And the high cry rang, 
The high cry of Man, the man-hunter: 
We'll get you yet, you sbxyzch! 

I listened later. 
The high cry rang: 
Kill him ! kill him ! the sbxyzch ! 

In the morning the sun saw 

Two butts of something, a smoking rump. 

And a warning in charred wood : 

Well, we got him, 
the sbxyzch. 






Smoke and Steel 49 

r 

THE SINS OF KALAMAZOO 

THE sins of Kalamazoo are neither scarlet nor crimson. 
The sins of Kalamazoo are a convict gray, a dishwater 

drab. 
And the people who sin the sins of Kalamazoo are 

neither scarlet nor crimson. 
They run to drabs and grays and some of them sing 

they shall be washed whiter than snow and 

some: We should worry. 

Yes, Kalamazoo is a spot on the map 

And the passenger trains stop there 

And the factory smokestacks smoke 

And the grocery stores are open Saturday nights 

And the streets are free for citizens who vote 

And inhabitants counted in the census. 

Saturday night is the big night. 

Listen with your ears on a Saturday night in 
Kalamazoo 

And say to yourself: I hear America, I hear, 
what do I hear? 

Main street there runs through the middle of the town 

And there is a dirty postoffice 

And a dirty city hall 

And a dirty railroad station 



o The Sins of Kalamazoo 

And the United States flag cries, cries the Stars and 
Stripes to the four winds on Lincoln's birthday 
and the Fourth of July. 

Kalamazoo kisses a hand to something far off. 

Kalamazoo calls to a long horizon, to a shivering silver 
angel, to a creeping mystic what-is-it. 

" We're here because we're here," is the song of Kala- 
mazoo. 

" We don't know where we're going but we're on our 
way," are the words. 

There are hound dogs of bronze on the public square, 
hound dogs looking far beyond the public square. 

Sweethearts there in Kalamazoo 
Go to the general delivery window of the postoffice 
And speak their names and ask for letters 
And ask again, " Are you sure there is nothing for me ? 
I wish you'd look again there must be a letter for 
me." 

And sweethearts go to the city hall 

And tell their names and say, " We want a license." 

And they go to an installment house and buy a bed on 

time and a clock 
And the children grow up asking each other, " What 

can we do to kill time ? " 
They grow up and go to the railroad station and buy 

tickets for Texas, Pennsylvania, Alaska. 
" Kalamazoo is all right," they say. " But I want to 

see the world." 



The Sins of Kalamazoo 1 

And when they have looked the world over they come 
back saying it is all like Kalamazoo. 

The trains come in from the east and hoot for the 

crossings, 
And buzz away to the peach country and Chicago to 

the west 
Or they come from the west and shoot on to the Battle 

Creek breakfast bazaars 
And the speedbug heavens of Detroit. 

" I hear America, I hear, what do I hear ? " 
Said a loafer lagging along on the sidewalks of Kal- 
amazoo, 
Lagging along and asking questions, reading signs. 

Oh yes, there is a town named Kalamazoo, 
A spot on the map where the trains hesitate. 
I saw the sign of a five and ten cent store there 
And the Standard Oil Company and the International 

Harvester 

And a graveyard and a ball grounds 
And a short order counter where a man can get a 

stack of wheats 
And a pool hall where a rounder leered confidential 

like and said : 
" Lookin' for a quiet game? " 

The loafer lagged along and asked, 
" Do you make guitars here ? 

Do you make boxes the singing wood winds ask to 
sleep in? 



52 The Sins of Kalamazoo 

Do you rig up strings the singing wood winds sift over 

and sing low?" 
The answer: "We manufacture musical instruments 

here." 

Here I saw churches with steeples like hatpins, 
Undertaking rooms with sample coffins in the show 

window 

And signs everywhere satisfaction is guaranteed, 
Shooting galleries where men kill imitation pigeons, 
And there were doctors for the sick, 
And lawyers for people waiting in jail, 
And a dog catcher and a superintendent of streets, 
And telephones, water-works, trolley cars, 
And newspapers with a splatter of telegrams from 

sister cities of Kalamazoo the round world over. 

And the loafer lagging along said : 

Kalamazoo, you ain't in a class by yourself ; 

I seen you before in a lot of places. 

If you are nuts America is nuts. 

And lagging along he said bitterly : 
Before I came to Kalamazoo I was silent. 
Now I am gabby, God help me, I am gabby. 

Kalamazoo, both of us will do a fadeaway. 
I will be carried out feet first 
And time and the rain will chew you to dust 
And the winds blow you away. 

And an old, old mother will lay a green moss cover 
on my bones 



The Sins of Kalamazoo 53 

And a green moss cover on the stones of your post- 
office and city hall. 

Best of all 

I have loved your kiddies playing run-sheep-run 
And cutting their initials on the ball ground fence. 
They knew every time I fooled them who was fooled 
and how. 

Best of all 

I have loved the red gold smoke of your sunsets ; 
I have loved a moon with a ring around it 
Floating over your public square; 
I have loved the white dawn frost of early winter 

silver 
And purple over your railroad tracks and lumber 

yards. 

The wishing heart of you I loved, Kalamazoo. 
I sang bye-lo, bye-lo to your dreams. 
I sang bye-lo to your hopes and songs. 
I wished to God there were hound dogs of bronze on 

your public square, 

Hound dogs with bronze paws looking to a long 
horizon with a shivering silver angel, 
a creeping mystic what-is-it. 



BROKEN-FACE GARGOYLES 



Smoke and Steel 57 



BROKEN-FACE GARGOYLES 

ALL I can give you is broken- face gargoyles. 
It is too early to sing and dance at funerals, 
Though I can whisper to you I am looking for an 
undertaker humming a lullaby and throwing his 
feet in a swift and mystic buck-and-wing, now 
you see it and now you don't. 

Fish to swim a pool in your garden flashing a speckled 
silver, 

A basket of wine-saps filling your room with flame- 
dark for your eyes and the tang of valley orchards 
for your nose, 

Such a beautiful pail of fish, such a beautiful peck 
of apples, I cannot bring you now. 

It is too early and I am not footloose yet. 

I shall come in the night when I come with a hammer 
and saw. 

I shall come near your window, where you look out 
when your eyes open in the morning, 

And there I shall slam together bird-houses and bird- 
baths for wing-loose wrens and hummers to live 
in, birds with yellow wing tips to blur and buzz 
soft all summer, 



58 Broken-Face Gargoyles 

So I shall make little fool homes with doors, always 

open doors for all and each to run away when 

they want to. 
I shall come just like that even though now it is early 

and I am not yet footloose, 
Even though I am still looking for an undertaker with 

a raw, wind-bitten face and a dance in his feet. 
I make a date with you (put it down) for six o'clock 

in the evening a thousand years from now. 

All I can give you now is broken-face gargoyles. 

All I can give you now is a double gorilla head with 
two fish mouths and four eagle eyes hooked on a 
street wall, spouting water and looking two ways 
to the ends of the street for the new people, the 
young strangers, coming, coming, always coming. 

It is early. 

I shall yet be footloose. 



Smoke and Steel 59 



APRONS OF SILENCE 

MANY things I might have said today. 
And I kept my mouth shut. 
So many times I was asked 
To come and say the same things 
Everybody was saying, no end 
To the yes-yes, yes-yes, 
me-too, me-too. 

The aprons of silence covered me. 

A wire and hatch held my tongue. 

I spit nails into an abyss and listened. 

I shut off the gabble of Jones, Johnson, Smith, 

All whose names take pages in the city directory. 

I fixed up a padded cell and lugged it around. 

I locked myself in and nobody knew it. 

Only the keeper and the kept in the hoosegow 

Knew it on the streets, in the postoffice, 

On the cars, into the railroad station 

Where the caller was calling, "All a-board, 

All a-board for . . Blaa-blaa . . Blaa-blaa, 

Blaa-blaa . . and all points northwest . . all a-board." 

Here I took along my own hoosegow 

And did business with my own thoughts. 

Do you see ? It must be the aprons of silence. 



60 Smoke and Steel 



DEATH SNIPS PROUD MEN 

DEATH is stronger than all the governments because 
the governments are men and men die and then 
death laughs : Now you see 'em, now you don't. 

Death is stronger than all proud men and so death 
snips proud men on the nose, throws a pair of 
dice and says: Read 'em and weep. 

Death sends a radiogram every day: When I want 
you I'll drop in and then one day he comes with a 
master-key and lets himself in and says: We'll 
go now. 

Death is a nurse mother with big arms : Twon't hurt 
you at all; it's your time now; you just need a 
long sleep, child; what have you had anyhow 
better than sleep? 



Smoke arid Steel 61 



GOOD NIGHT 
MANY ways to spell good night. 

Fireworks at a pier on the Fourth of July 

spell it with red wheels and yellow spokes. 

They fizz in the air, touch the water and quit. 

Rockets make a trajectory of gold-and-blue 
and then go out. 

Railroad trains at night spell with a smokestack 
mushrooming a white pillar. 

Steamboats turn a curve in the Mississippi crying 
in a baritone that crosses lowland cottonfields 
to a razorback hill. 

It is easy to spell good night. 

Many ways to spell good night. 



62 Smoke and Steel 



SHIRT 

MY shirt is a token and symbol, 
more than a cover for sun and rain, 
my shirt is a signal, 
and a teller of souls. 

I can take off my shirt and tear it, 
and so make a ripping razzly noise, 
and the people will say, 
" Look at him tear his shirt." 

I can keep my shirt on. 
I can stick around and sing like a little bird 
and look 'em all in the eye and never be fazed. 
I can keep my shirt on. 



Smoke and Steel 63 

JAZZ FANTASIA 

DRUM on your drums, batter on your banjoes, 
sob on the long cool winding saxophones. 
Go to it, O jazzmen. 

Sling your knuckles on the bottoms of the happy 
tin pans, let your trombones ooze, and go husha- 
husha-hush with the slippery sand-paper. 

Moan like an autumn wind high in the lonesome tree- 
tops, moan soft like you wanted somebody terrible, 
cry like a racing car slipping away from a motorcycle 
cop, bang-bang! you jazzmen, bang altogether drums, 
traps, banjoes, horns, tin cans make two people fight 
on the top of a stairway and scratch each other's eyes 
in a clinch tumbling down the stairs. 

Can the rough stuff . . . now a Mississippi steamboat 
pushes up the night river with a hoo-hoo-hoo-oo . . . 
and the green lanterns calling to the high soft stars 
... a red moon rides on the humps of the low river 
hills . . . go to it, O jazzmen. 



64 Smoke and Steel 



DO YOU WANT AFFIDAVITS? 

THERE'S a hole in the bottom of the sea. 
Do you want affidavits? 

There's a man in the moon with money for you. 
Do you want affidavits? 

There are ten dancing girls in a sea-chamber off Nan- 
tucket waiting for you. 

There are tall candles in Timbuctoo burning penance 
for you. 

There are anything else? 

Speak now for now we stand amid the great wishing 
windows and the law says we are free to be 
wishing all this week at the windows. 

Shall I raise my right hand and swear to you in the 
monotone of a notary public? this is "the truth, 
the whole truth, and nothing but th/ 1 truth." 



Smoke and Steel 65 



"OLD-FASHIONED REQUITED LOVE" 

I HAVE ransacked the encyclopedias 

And slid my fingers among topics and titles 

Looking for you. 

And the answer comes slow. 
There seems to be no answer. 

I shall ask the next banana peddler the who and the 
why of it. 

Or the iceman with his iron tongs gripping a clear 
cube in summer sunlight maybe he will know. 



66 Smoke and Steel 



PURPLE MARTINS 

IF we were such and so, the same as these, 
maybe we too would be slingers and sliders, 
tumbling half over in the water mirrors, 
tumbling half over at the horse heads of the sun, 
tumbling our purple numbers. 

Twirl on, you and your satin blue. 

Be water birds, be air birds. 

Be these purple tumblers you are. 

Dip and get away 
From loops into slip-knots, 
Write your own ciphers and figure eights. 
It is your wooded island here in Lincoln park. 
Everybody knows this belongs to you. 

Five fat geese 
Eat grass on a sod bank 
And never count your slinging ciphers, 

your sliding figure eights, 

A man on a green paint iron bench, 

Slouches his feet and sniffs in a book, 

And looks at you and your loops and slip-knots, 

And looks at you and your sheaths of satin blue, 

And slouches again and sniffs in the book, 

And mumbles : It is an idle and a doctrinaire exploit. 



Purple Martins 67 

Go on tumbling half over in the water mirrors. 

Go on tumbling half over at the horse heads of the sun. 

Be water birds, be air birds. 

Be these purple tumblers you are. 



68 Smoke and Steel 



BRASS KEYS 

JOY . . . weaving two violet petals for a coat lapel . . . 
painting on a slab of night sky a Christ face . . . 
slipping new brass keys into rusty iron locks and 
shouldering till at last the door gives and we are in 
a new room . . . forever and ever violet petals, slabs, 
the Christ face, brass keys and new rooms. 

are we near or far? . . . is there anything else? . . . 
who comes back ? . . . and why does love ask nothing 
and give all? and why is love rare as a tailed comet 
shaking guesses out of men at telescopes ten feet long ? 
why does the mystery sit with its chin on the lean 
forearm of women in gray eyes and women in hazel 
eyes? 

are any of these less proud, less important, than a 
cross-examining lawyer? are any of these less perfect 
than the front page of a morning newspaper? 

the answers are not computed and attested in the back 
of an arithmetic for the verifications of the lazy 

there is no authority in the phone book for us to call 
and ask the why, the wherefore, and the howbeit 
it's ... a riddle ... by God 



Smoke and Steel 69 



PICK-OFFS 

THE telescope picks off star dust 

on the clean steel sky and sends it to me. 

The telephone picks off my voice and 
sends it cross country a thousand miles. 

The eyes in my head pick off pages of 
Napoleon memoirs ... a rag handler, 
a head of dreams walks in a sheet of 
mist . . . the palace panels shut in no- 
bodies drinking nothings out of silver 
helmets ... in the end we all come to a 
rock island and the hold of the sea-walls. 



yo Smoke and Steel 



MANUFACTURED GODS 

THEY put up big wooden gods. 

Then they burned the big wooden gods 

And put up brass gods and 

Changing their minds suddenly 

Knocked down the brass gods and put up 

A doughface god with gold earrings. 

The poor mutts, the pathetic slant heads, 

They didn't know a little tin god 

Is as good as anything in the line of gods 

Nor how a little tin god answers prayer 

And makes rain and brings luck 

The same as a big wooden god or a brass 

God or a doughface god with golden 

Earrings. 



Smoke and Steel 71 



MASK 

To have your face left overnight 
Flung on a board by a crazy sculptor; 
To have your face drop off a board 
And fall to pieces on a floor 
Lost among lumps all finger-marked 
How now? 

To be calm and level, placed high, 
Looking among perfect women bathing 
And among bareheaded long-armed men, 
Corner dreams of a crazy sculptor, 
And then to fall, drop clean off the board, 
Four o'clock in the morning and not a dog 
Nor a policeman anywhere 

Hoo hoo! 

had it been my laughing face 
maybe I would laugh with you, 
but my lover's face, the face I give 
women and the moon and the sea ! 



PLAYTHINGS OF THE WIND 



Smoke and Steel 75 



FOUR PRELUDES ON PLAYTHINGS OF THE 
WIND 



The past is a bucket of ashes." 



THE woman named To-morrow 
sits with a hairpin in her teeth 
and takes her time 

and does her hair the way she wants it 
and fastens at last the last braid and coil 
and puts the hairpin where it belongs 
and turns and drawls : Well, what of it ? 
My grandmother, Yesterday, is gone. 
What of it? Let the dead be dead. 



The doors were cedar 

and the panels strips of gold 

and the girls were golden girls 

and the panels read and the girls chanted : 
We are the greatest city, 
the greatest nation: 
nothing like us ever was. 



76 Playthings of the Wind 

The doors are twisted on broken hinges. 
Sheets of rain swish through on the wind 

where the golden girls ran and the panels 
read: 

We are the greatest city, 

the greatest nation, 

nothing like us ever was. 



It has happened before. 

Strong men put up a city and got 

a nation together, 
And paid singers to sing and women 

to warble : We are the greatest city, 
the greatest nation, 
nothing like us ever was. 

And while the singers sang 

and the strong men listened 

and paid the singers well 

and felt good about it all, 

there were rats and lizards who listened 
. . . and the only listeners left now 
... are ... the rats . . . and the lizards. 

And there are black crows 
crying, " Caw, caw," 
bringing mud and sticks 
building a nest 



Playthings of the Wind 77 

over the words carved 
on the doors where the panels were cedar 
and the strips on the panels were gold 
and the golden girls came singing: 

We are the greatest city, 

the greatest nation : 

nothing like us ever was. 

The only singers now are crows crying, " Caw, caw," 
And the sheets of rain whine in the wind and doorways. 
And the only listeners now are . . . the rats . . . and 
the lizards. 



The feet of the rats 

scribble on the door sills ; 

the hieroglyphs of the rat footprints 

chatter the pedigrees of the rats 

arid babble of the blood 

and gabble of the breed 

of the grandfathers and the great-grandfathers 

of the rats. 

And the wind shifts 
and the dust on a door sill shifts 
and even the writing of the rat footprints 
tells us nothing, nothing at all 
about the greatest city, the greatest nation 
where the strong men listened 
and the women warbled: Nothing like us ever 
was. 



78 Smoke and Steel 



BROKEN TABERNACLES 

HAVE I broken the smaller tabernacles, O Lord? 

And in the destruction of these set up the greater and 
massive, the everlasting tabernacles? 

I know nothing today, what I have done and why, 
O Lord, only I have broken and broken taber- 
nacles. 

They were beautiful in a way, these tabernacles torn 
down by strong hands swearing 

They were beautiful why did the hypocrites carve 
their own names on the corner-stones? why did 
the hypocrites keep on singing their own names 
in their long noses every Sunday in these taber- 
nacles ? 

Who lays any blame here among the split corner- 
stones ? 



Smoke and Steel 79 



OSSAWATOMIE 



I DON'T know how he came, 
shambling, dark, and strong. 



He stood in the city and told men: 

My people are fools, my people are young and strong, 

my people must learn, my people are terrible 

workers and fighters. 
Always he kept on asking : Where did that blood come 

from? 



They said: You for the fool killer, 
you for the booby hatch 
and a necktie party. 

They hauled him into jail. 
They sneered at him and spit on him, 
And he wrecked their jails, 
Singing, "God damn your jails," 
And when he was most in jail 
Crummy among the crazy in the dark 
Then he was most of all out of jail 
Shambling, dark, and strong, 
Always asking: Where did that blood come from? 



80 Ossawatomie 

They laid hands on him 

And the fool killers had a laugh 

And the necktie party was a go, by God. 
They laid hands on him and he was a goner. 

They hammered him to pieces and he stood up. 
They buried him and he walked out of the grave, by God, 

Asking again : Where did that blood come from ? 



Smoke and Steel 81 



LONG GUNS 

THEN came, Oscar, the time of the guns. 
And there was no land for a man, no land for a 
country, 

Unless guns sprang up 

And spoke their language. 
The how of running the world was all in guns. 

The law of a God keeping sea and land apart, 
The law of a child sucking milk, 
The law of stars held together, 

They slept and worked in the heads of men 

Making twenty mile guns, sixty mile guns, 

Speaking their language 

Of no land for a man, no land for a country 
Unless . . . guns . . . unless . . . guns. 

There was a child wanted the moon shot off the sky, 
asking a long gun to get the moon, 
to conquer the insults of the moon, 
to conquer something, anything, 
to put it over and win the day, 

To show them the running of the world was all in guns. 

There was a child wanted the moon shot off the sky. 

They dreamed ... in the time of the guns ... of guns. 



82 Smoke and Steel 



DUSTY DOORS 

CHILD of the Aztec gods, 
how long must we listen here, 
how long before we go? 

The dust is deep on the lintels. 
The dust is dark on the doors. 
If the dreams shake our bones, 
what can we say or do? 

Since early morning we waited. 
Since early, early morning, child. 
There must be dreams on the way now. 
There must be a song for our bones. 

The dust gets deeper and darker. 
Do the doors and lintels shudder? 

How long must we listen here? 

How long before we go? 



Smoke and Steel 83 



FLASH CRIMSON 

I SHALL cry God to give me a broken foot. 
I shall ask for a scar and a slashed nose. 
I shall take the last and the worst. 

I shall be eaten by gray creepers in a bunkhouse where 
no runners of the sun come and no dogs live. 

And yet of all " and yets " this is the bronze strong- 
est 

I shall keep one thing better than all else ; there is the 
blue steel of a great star of early evening in it; 
it lives longer than a broken foot or any scar. 

The broken foot goes to a hole dug with a shovel or 
the bone of a nose may whiten on a hilltop and 
yet" and yet " 

There is one crimson pinch of ashes left after all; 
and none of the shifting winds that whip the grass 
and none of the pounding rains that beat the dust, 
know how to touch or find the flash of this crim- 
son. 



84 Flash Crimson 

I cry God to give me a broken foot, a scar, or a lousy 
death. 



I who have seen the flash of this crimson, I ask God 
for the last and worst. 



Smoke and Steel 85' 



THE LAWYERS KNOW TOO MUCH 



THE lawyers, Bob, know too much. 

They are chums of the books of old John Marshall. 

They know it all, what a dead hand wrote, 

A stiff dead hand and its knuckles crumbling, 

The bones of the fingers a thin white ash. 

The lawyers know 

a dead man's thoughts too well. 



In the heels of the higgling lawyers, Bob, 
Too many slippery ifs and buts and howevers, 
Too much hereinbefore provided whereas, 
Too many doors to go in and out of. 



When the lawyers are through 

What is there left, Bob? 

Can a mouse nibble at it 

And find enough to fasten a tooth in? 



Why is there always a secret singing 
When a lawyer cashes in? 
Why does a hearse horse snicker 
Hauling a lawyer away? 



86 The Lawyers Know Too Much 

The work of a bricklayer goes to the blue. 

The knack of a mason outlasts a moon. 

The hands of a plasterer hold a room together. 

The land of a farmer wishes him back again. 
Singers of songs and dreamers of plays 
Build a house no wind blows over. 

The lawyers tell me why a hearse horse snickers 
hauling a lawyer's bones. 



Smoke and Steel 87 



LOSERS 

IF I should pass the tomb of Jonah 

I would stop there and sit for awhile; 

Because I was swallowed one time deep in the dark 

And came out alive after all. 

If I pass the burial spot of Nero 

I shall say to the wind, " Well, well! " 

I who have fiddled in a world on fire, 

I who have done so many stunts not worth doing. 

I am looking for the grave of Sinbad too. 
I want to shake his ghost-hand and say, 
" Neither of us died very early, did we?" 

And the last sleeping-place of Nebuchadnezzar 
When I arrive there I shall tell the wind : 
" You ate grass ; I have eaten crow 
Who is better off now or next year ? " 

Jack Cade, John Brown, Jesse James, 
There too I could sit down and stop for awhile. 
I think I could tell their headstones: 
" God, let me remember all good losers." 

I could ask people to throw ashes on their heads 
In the name of that sergeant at Belleau Woods, 
Walking into the drumfires, calling his men, 
" Come on, you . . . Do you want to live forever ? " 



Smoke and Steel 



PLACES 

ROSES and gold 

For you today, 

And the flash of flying flags. 

I will have 
Ashes, 

Dust in my hair, 
Crushes of hoofs. 

Your name 

Fills the mouth 

Of 'rich man and poor. 

Women bring 
Armfuls of flowers 
And throw on you. 

I go hungry 
Down in dreams 
And loneliness, 
Across the rain 
To slashed hills 
Where men wait and hope for me. 



Smoke and Steel 



THREES 

I WAS a boy when I heard three red words 
a thousand Frenchmen died in the streets 
for: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity I asked 
why men die for words. 

I was older; men with mustaches, sideburns, 
lilacs, told me the high golden words are : 
Mother, Home, and Heaven other older men with 
face decorations said : God, Duty, Immortality 
they sang these threes slow from deep lungs. 

Years ticked off their say-so on the great clocks 
of doom and damnation, soup and nuts : meteors flashed 
their say-so: and out of great Russia came three 
dusky syllables workmen took guns and went out to die 
for: Bread, Peace, Land. 

And I met a marine of the U. S. A., a leatherneck with 
a girl on his knee for a memory in ports circling the 
earth and he said: Tell me how to say three things 
and I always get by gimme a plate of ham and eggs 
how much? and do you love me, kid? 



90 Smoke and Steel 



THE LIARS 
(March, 1919) 

A LIAR goes in fine clothes. 

A liar goes in rags. 

A liar is a liar, clothes or no clothes. 

A liar is a liar and lives on the lies he tells 

and dies in a life of lies. 
And the stonecutters earn a living with lies 

on the tombs of liars. 

A liar looks 'em in the eye 

And lies to a woman, 

Lies to a man, a pal, a child, a fool. 

And he is an old liar ; we know him many years back. 

A liar lies to nations. 

A liar lies to the people. 
A liar takes the blood of the people 
And drinks this blood with a laugh and a lie, 

A laugh in his neck, 

A lie in his mouth. 
And this liar is an old one ; we know him many years. 

He is straight as a dog's hind leg. 

He is straight as a corkscrew. 
He is white as a black cat's foot at midnight. 



The Liars 91 

The tongue of a man is tied on this, 
On the liar who lies to nations, 
The liar who lies to the people. 
The tongue of a man is tied on this 
And ends : To hell with 'em all. 
To hell with 'em all. 

It's a song hard as a riveter's hammer, 
Hard as the sleep of a crummy hobo, 
Hard as the sleep of a lousy doughboy, 

Twisted as a shell-shock idiot's gibber. 

The liars met where the doors were locked. 
They said to each other : Now for war. 
The liars fixed it and told 'em : Go. 

Across their tables they fixed it up, 

Behind their doors away from the mob. 

And the guns did a job that nicked off millions. 

The guns blew seven million off the map, 

The guns sent seven million west. 

Seven million shoving up the daisies. 

Across their tables they fixed it up, 

The liars who lie to nations. 

And now 

Out of the butcher's job 

And the boneyard junk the maggots have cleaned, 
Where the jaws of skulls tell the jokes of war ghosts, 
Out of this they are calling now: Let's go back where 
we were. 

Let us run the world again, us, us. 



92 The Liars 

Where the doors are locked the liars say: Wait and 
we'll cash in again. 

So I hear The People talk. 
I hear them tell each other: 

Let the strong men be ready. 

Let the strong men watch. 

Let your wrists be cool and your head clear. 

Let the liars get their finish, 

The liars and their waiting game, waiting a day again 

To open the doors and tell us : War ! get out to your 
war again. 

So I hear The People tell each other : 
Look at to-day and to-morrow. 
Fix this clock that nicks off millions 
When The Liars say it's time. 
Take things in your own hands. 

To hell with 'em all, 
The liars who lie to nations, 
The liars who lie to The People. 



Smoke and Steel 93 



PRAYER AFTER WORLD WAR 

WANDERING oversea dreamer, 

Hunting and hoarse, Oh daughter and mother, 

Oh daughter of ashes and mother of blood, 

Child of the hair let down, and tears, 

Child of the cross in the south 

And the star in the north, 

Keeper of Egypt and Russia and France, 

Keeper of England and Poland and Spain, 

Make us a song for to-morrow. 

Make us one new dream, us who forget, 

Out of the storm let us have one star. 

Struggle, Oh anvils, and help her. 
Weave with your wool, Oh winds and skies. 
Let your iron and copper help, 

Oh dirt of the old dark earth. 

Wandering oversea singer, 
Singing of ashes and blood, 
Child of the scars of fire, 

Make us one new dream, us who forget. 

Out of the storm let us have one star. 



94 Smoke and Steel 



A. E. F. 

THERE will be a rusty gun on the wall, sweetheart, 

The rifle grooves curling with flakes of rust. 

A spider will make a silver string nest in the 
darkest, warmest corner of it. 

The trigger and the range-finder, they too will be rusty. 

And no hands will polish the gun, and it will hang 
on the wall. 

Forefingers and thumbs will point absently and casu- 
ally toward it. 

It will be spoken among half -forgotten, wished-to-be- 
forgotten things. 

They will tell the spider: Go on, you're doing good 
work. 



Smoke and Steel 95 



BAS-RELIEF 

FIVE geese deploy mysteriously. 
Onward proudly with flagstaffs, 
Hearses with silver bugles, 
Bushels of plum-blossoms dropping 
For ten mystic web- feet 
Each his own drum-major, 
Each charged with the honor 
Of the ancient goose nation, 
Each with a nose-length surpassing 
The nose-lengths of rival nations. 
Somberly, slowly, unimpeachably, 
Five geese deploy mysteriously. 



96 Smoke and Steel 



CARLOVINGIAN DREAMS 

COUNT these reminiscences like money. 

The Greeks had their picnics under another name. 

The Romans wore glad rags and told their neighbors, 

"What of it?" 

The Carlovingians hauling logs on carts, they too 
Stuck their noses in the air and stuck their thumbs to 

their noses 
And tasted life as a symphonic dream of fresh eggs 

broken over a frying pan left by an uncle who 

killed men with spears and short swords. 
Count these reminiscences like money. 

Drift, and drift on, white ships. 
Sailing the free sky blue, sailing and changing and 

sailing, 
Oh, I remember in the blood of my dreams how they 

sang before me. 

Oh, they were men and women who got money for 
their work, money or love or dreams. 
Sail on, white ships. 
Let me have spring dreams. 

Let me count reminiscences like money; let me count 
picnics, glad rags and the great bad manners of 
the Carlovingians breaking fresh eggs in the cop- 
per pans of their proud uncles. 



Smoke and Steel 97 



BRONZES 

THEY ask me to handle bronzes 

Kept by children in China 

Three thousand years 

Since their fathers 

Took fire and molds and hammers 

And made these. 

The Ming, the Chou, 

And other dynasties, 

Out, gone, reckoned in ciphers, 

Dynasties dressed up 

In old gold and old yellow 

They saw these. 

Let the wheels 

Of three thousand years 

Turn, turn, turn on. 

Let one poet then 
(One will be enough) 
Handle these bronzes 
And mention the dynasties 
And pass them along. 



Smoke and Steel 



LET LOVE GO ON 

LET it go on; let the love of this hour be poured out 
till all the answers are made, the last dollar spent 
and the last blood gone. 

Time runs with an ax and a hammer, time slides down 
the hallways with a pass-key and a master-key, 
and time gets by, time wins. 

Let the love of this hour go on ; let all the oaths and 
children and people of this love be clean as a 
washed stone under a waterfall in the sun. 

Time is a young man with ballplayer legs, time runs 
a winning race against life and the clocks, time 
tickles with rust and spots. 

Let love go on ; the heartbeats are measured out with 
a measuring glass, so many apiece to gamble with, 
to use and spend and reckon ; let love go on. 



Smoke and Steel 99 



KILLERS 

I AM put high over all others in the city today. 
I am the killer who kills for those who wish a killing 
today. 

Here is a strong young man who killed. 

There was a driving wind of city dust and horse dung 
blowing and he stood at an intersection of five 
sewers and there pumped the bullets of an auto- 
matic pistol into another man, a fellow citizen. 

Therefore, the prosecuting attorneys, fellow citizens, 
and a jury of his peers, also fellow citizens, lis- 
tened to the testimony of other fellow citizens, 
policemen, doctors, and after a verdict of guilty, 
the judge, a fellow citizen, said: I sentence you 
to be hanged by the neck till you are dead. 

So there is a killer to be killed and I am the killer of 

the killer for today. 
I don't know why it beats in my head in the lines I 

read once in an old school reader : I'm to be queen 

' of the May, mother, I'm to be queen of the May. 

Anyhow it comes back in language just like that today. 

I am the high honorable killer today. 

There are five million people in the state, five million 

killers for whom I kill 

I am the killer who kills today for five million killers 
who wish a killing. 



ioo Smoke and Steel 



CLEAN HANDS 

IT is something to face the sun and know you are free. 
To hold your head in the shafts of daylight slanting 

the earth 

And know your heart has kept a promise and the blood 
runs clean: 

It is something. 
To go one day of your life among all men with clean 

hands, 
Clean for the day book today and the record of the 

after days, 

Held at your side proud, satisfied to the last, and ready, 
So to have clean hands: 

God, it is something, 
One day of life so 

And a memory fastened till the stars sputter out 
And a love washed as white linen in the noon 

drying. 

Yes, go find the men of clean hands one day and see 
the life, the memory, the love they have, to stay 
longer than the plunging sea wets the shores or 
the fires heave under the crust of the earth. 
O yes, clean hands is the chant and only one man 
knows its sob and its undersong and he dies 
clenching the secret more to him than any woman 
or chum. 



Clean Hands 101 

And O the great brave men, the silent little brave 
men, proud of their hands clutching the knuckles 
of their fingers into fists ready for death and the 
dark, ready for life and the fight, the pay and the 
memories O the men proud of their hands. 



IO2 Smoke and Steel 



THREE GHOSTS 

THREE tailors of Tooley Street wrote : We, the People. 
The names are forgotten. It is a joke in ghosts. 

Cutters or bushelmen or armhole basters, they sat 
cross-legged stitching, snatched at scissors, stole each 
other thimbles. 

Cross-legged, working for wages, joking each other 
as misfits cut from the cloth of a Master Tailor, 
they sat and spoke their thoughts of the glory of 
The People, they met after work and drank beer to 
The People. 

Faded off into the twilights the names are forgotten. 
It is a joke in ghosts. Let it ride. They wrote : We, 
The People. 



Smoke and Steel 103 



PENCILS 

PENCILS 

telling where the wind comes from 
open a story. 

Pencils 

telling where the wind goes 
end a story. 

These eager pencils 

come to a stop 

. . only . . when the stars high over 

come to a stop. 

Out of cabalistic to-morrows 
come cryptic babies calling life 
a strong and a lovely thing. 

I have seen neither these 
nor the stars high over 
come to a stop. 

Neither thes,e nor the sea horses 
running with the clocks of the moon. 
Nor even a shooting star 
snatching a pencil of fire 
writing a curve of gold and white. 



IO4 Pencils 

Like you . . I counted the shooting stars of a 
winter night and my head was dizzy with all 
of them calling one by one : 

Look for us again. 



Smoke and Steel 105 



JUG 

THE shale and water thrown together so-so first of all, 

Then a potter's hand on the wheel and his fingers shap- 
ing the jug ; out of the mud a mouth and a handle ; 

Slimpsy, loose and ready to fall at a touch, fire plays 
on it, slow fire coaxing all the water out of the 
shale mix. 

Dipped in glaze more fire plays on it till a molasses lava 
runs in waves, rises and retreats, a varnish of 
volcanoes. 

Take it now; out of mud now here is a mouth and 
handle; out of this now mothers will pour milk 
and maple syrup and cider, vinegar, apple juice, 
and sorghum. 

There is nothing proud about this ; only one out of 
many ; the potter's wheel slings them out and the 
fires harden them hours and hours thousands and 
thousands. 

" Be good to me, put me, down easy on the floors of 
the new concrete houses ; I was poured out like a 
concrete house and baked in fire too." 



io6 Smoke and Steel 



AND THIS WILL BE ALL? 

AND this will be all? 

And the gates will never open again? 

And the dust and the wind will play around the rusty 
door hinges and the songs of October moan, Why- 
oh, why-oh? 

And you will look to the mountains 
And the mountains will look to you 
And you will wish you were a mountain 
And the mountain will wish nothing at all? 

This will be all? 
The gates will never-never open again? 

The dust and the wind only 
And the rusty door hinges and moaning October 
And Why-oh, why-oh, in the moaning dry leaves, 
This will be all? 

Nothing in the air but songs 
And no singers, no mouths to know the songs ? 
You tell us a woman with a heartache tells you it is so? 
This will be all? 



Smoke and Steel 107 



HOODLUMS 

I AM a hoodlum, you are a hoodlum, we and all of us 

are a world of hoodlums maybe so. 
I hate and kill better men than I am, so do you, so 

do all of us maybe maybe so. 
In the ends of my fingers the itch for another man's 

neck, I want to see him hanging, one of dusk's 

cartoons against the sunset. 
This is the hate my father gave me, this was in my 

mother's milk, this is you and me and all of us 

in a world of hoodlums maybe so. 
Let us go on, brother hoodlums, let us kill and kill, it 

has always been so, it will always be so, there is 

nothing more to it. 
Let us go on, sister hoodlums, kill, kill, and kill, the 

torsoes of the world's mother's are tireless and the 

loins of the world's fathers are strong so go on 

kill, kill, kill. 
Lay them deep in the dirt, the stiffs we fixed, the 

cadavers bumped off, lay them deep and let the 

night winds of winter blizzards howl their burial 

service. 
The night winds and the winter, the great white sheets 

of northern blizzards, who can sing better for the 

lost hoodlums the old requiem, " Kill him ! kill 

him! . ." 



io8 Hoodlums 

Today my son, to-morrow yours, the day after your 
next door neighbor's it is all in the wrists of 
the gods who shoot craps it is anybody's guess 
whose eyes shut next. 

Being a hoodlum now, you and I, being all of us a 
world of hoodlums, let us take up the cry when 
the mob sluffs by on a thousand shoe soles, let 
us too yammer, " Kill him ! kill him ! . . . " 

Let us do this now . . . for our mothers . . . for our 
sisters and wives ... let us kill, kill, kill for 
the torsoes of the women are tireless and the 
loins of the men are strong. 
Chicago, July 29, 1919. 



Smoke and Steel 109 



YES, THE DEAD SPEAK TO US 



YES, the Dead speak to us. 

This town belongs to the Dead, to the Dead and to 
the Wilderness. 



Back of the clamps on a fireproof door they hold the 
papers of the Dead in a house here 

And when two living men fall out, when one says the 
Dead spoke a Yes, and the other says the Dead 
spoke a No, they go then together to this house. 

They loosen the clamps and haul at the hasps and try 
their keys and curse at the locks and the combina- 
tion numbers. 

For the teeth of the rats are barred and the tongues 
of the moths are outlawed and the sun and the 
air of wind is not wanted. 



They open a box where a sheet of paper shivers, in a 

dusty corner shivers with the dry inkdrops of the 

Dead, the signed names. 
Here the ink testifies, here we find the say-so, here 

we learn the layout, now we know where the 

cities and farms belong. 



no Yes, the Dead Speak to Us 

Dead white men and dead red men 
tested each other with shot and 
knives : they twisted each others' 
necks : land was yours if you took and 
kept it. 



How are the heads the rain seeps 
in, the rain-washed knuckles in 
sod and gumbo? 



Where the sheets of paper shiver, 

Back of the hasps and handles, 

Back of the fireproof clamps, 

They read what the fingers scribbled, who the land 
belongs to now it is herein provided, it is hereby 
stipulated the land and all appurtenances thereto and 
all deposits of oil and gold and coal and silver, and 
all pockets and repositories of gravel and diamonds, 
dung and permanganese, and all clover and bumblebees, 
all bluegrass, johnny- jump-ups, grassroots, springs of 
running water or rivers or lakes or high spreading 
trees or hazel bushes or sumach or thorn-apple branches 
or high in the air the bird nest with spotted blue eggs 
shaken in the roaming wind of the treetops 

So it is scrawled here, 

" I direct and devise 

So and so and such and such," 

And this is the last word. 

There is nothing more to it. 



Yes, the Dead Speak to Us ill 

In a shanty out in the Wilderness, ghosts of to-morrow 
sit, waiting to come and go, to do their job. 

They will go into the house of the Dead and take the 
shivering sheets of paper and make a bonfire and 
dance a deadman's dance over the hissing crisp. 

In a slang their own the dancers out of the Wilderness 
will write a paper for the living to read and sign : 

The dead need peace, the dead need sleep, let the dead 
have peace and sleep, let the papers of the Dead 
who fix the lives of the Living, let them be a 
hissing crisp and ashes, let the young men and the 
young women forever understand we are through 
and no longer take the say-so of the Dead; 

Let the dead have honor from us with our thoughts 
of them and our thoughts of land and all appur- 
tenances thereto and all deposits of oil and gold 
and coal and silver, and all pockets and repositories 
of gravel and diamonds, dung and permanganese, 
and all clover and bumblebees, all bluegrass, 
johnny- jump-ups, grassroots, springs of running 
water or rivers or lakes or high spreading trees 
or hazel bushes or sumach or thornapple branches 
or high in the air the bird nest with spotted blue 
eggs shaken in the roaming wind of the treetops. 

And so, it is a shack of ghosts, a lean-to they have in 
the Wilderness, and they are waiting and they 
have learned strange songs how easy it is to wait 
and how anything comes to those who wait long 
enough and how most of all it is easy to wait for 
death, and waiting, dream of new cities. 



MIST FORMS 



Smoke and Steel 



CALLS 

BECAUSE I have called to you 
as the flame flamingo calls, 
or the want of a spotted hawk 
is called 

because in the dusk 
the warblers shoot the running 
waters of short songs to the 
homecoming warblers 

because 

the cry here is wing to wing 
and song to song 



i am waiting, 

waiting with the flame flamingo, 
the spotted hawk, the running water 
warbler 

waiting for you. 



n6 Smoke and Steel 



SEA-WASH 

THE sea-wash never ends. 

The sea-wash repeats, repeats. 

Only old songs? Is that all the sea knows? 

Only the old strong songs? 

Is that all? 
The sea-wash repeats, repeats. 



Smoke and Steel 117 



SILVER WIND 

Do you know how the dream looms? how if summer 
misses one of us the two of us miss summer 

Summer when the lungs of the earth take a long 
breath for the change to low contralto singing 
mornings when the green corn leaves first break 
through the black loam 

And another long breath for the silver soprano melody 
of the moon songs in the light nights when the 
earth is lighter than a feather, the iron mountains 
lighter than a goose down 

So I shall look for you in the light nights then, in the 
laughter of slats of silver under a hill hickory. 

In the listening tops of the hickories, in the wind 
motions of the hickory shingle leaves, in the imi- 
tations of slow sea water on the shingle silver 
in the wind 

I shall look for you. 



n8 Smoke and Steel 



EVENING WATERFALL 

WHAT was the name you called me? 
And why did you go so soon? 

The crows lift their caw on the wind, 
And the wind changed and was lonely. 

The warblers cry their sleepy-songs 

Across the valley gloaming, 

Across the cattle-horns of early stars. 

Feathers and people in the crotch of a treetop 
Throw an evening waterfall of sleepy-songs. 

What was the name you called me? 
And why did you go so soon? 



Smoke and Steel 119 



CRUCIBLE 

HOT gold runs a winding stream on the inside of a 
green bowl. 

Yellow trickles in a fan figure, scatters a line of 
skirmishers, spreads a chorus of dancing girls, 
performs blazing ochre evolutions, gathers the 
whole show into one stream, forgets the past and 
rolls on. 

The sea-mist green of the bowl's bottom is a dark 
throat of sky crossed by quarreling forks of 
umber and ochre and yellow changing faces. 



120 Smoke and Steel 



SUMMER STARS 

BEND low again, night of summer stars. 
So near you are, sky of summer stars, 
So near, a long arm man can pick off stars, 
Pick off what he wants in the sky bowl, 
So near you are, summer stars, 
So near, strumming, strumming, 

So lazy and hum-strumming. 



Smoke and Steel 121 



THROW ROSES 

THROW roses on the sea where the dead went down. 

The roses speak to the sea, 

And the sea to the dead. 
Throw roses, O lovers-t- 

Let the leaves wash on the salt in the sun. 



122 Smoke and Steel 



JUST BEFORE APRIL CAME 

THE snow piles in dark places are gone. 
Pools by the railroad tracks shine clear. 
The gravel of all shallow places shines. 
A white pigeon reels and somersaults. 

Frogs plutter and squdge and frogs beat 
the air with a recurring thin 
steel sliver of melody. 

Crows go in fives and tens ; they march their 
black feathers past a blue pool ; they 
celebrate an old festival. 

A spider is trying his webs, a pink bug sits 
on my hand washing his forelegs. 

I might ask: Who are these people? 



Smoke and Steel 123 



STARS, SONGS, FACES 

GATHER the stars if you wish it so. 
Gather the songs and keep them. 
Gather the faces of women. 
Gather for keeping years and years. 

And then . . . 
Loosen your hands, let go and say good-by. 

Let the stars and songs go. 

Let the faces and years go. 

Loosen your hands and say good-by. 



124 Smoke and Steel 



SANDPIPERS 

TEN miles of flat land along the sea. 

Sandland where the salt water kills the 
sweet potatoes. 

Homes for sandpipers the script of their 
feet is on the sea shingles they write 
in the morning, it is gone at noon they 
write at noon, it is gone at night. 

Pity the land, the sea, the ten mile flats, 
pity anything but the sandpiper's wire 
legs and feet. 



Smoke and Steel 125 



THREE VIOLINS 

THREE violins are trying their hearts. 
The piece is MacDowell's Wild Rose. 

And the time of the wild rose 

And the leaves of the wild rose 
And the dew-shot eyes of the wild rose 
Sing in the air over three violins. 
Somebody like you was in the heart of MacDowell. 
Somebody like you is in three violins. 



J26 Smoke and Steel 



THE WIND SINGS WELCOME IN EARLY 
SPRING 

(For Paula) 

THE grip of the ice is gone now. 
The silvers chase purple. 
The purples tag silver. 

They let out their runners 
Here where summer says to the lilies : 

" Wish and be wistful, 
Circle this wind-hunted, wind-sung water." 

Come along always, come along now. 
You for me, kiss me, pull me by the ear. 
Push me along with the wind push. 
Sing like the whinnying wind. 
Sing like the hustling obstreperous wind. 

Have you ever seen deeper purple . . . 

this in my wild wind fingers? 
Could you have more fun with a pony or a goat ? 
Have you seen such flicking heels before, 
Silver jig heels on the purple sky rim? 

Come along always, come along now. - 



Smoke and Steel 127 

TAWNY 
THESE are the tawny days : your face comes back. 

The grapes take on purple: the sunsets redden 
early on the trellis. 

The bashful mornings hurl gray mist on the stripes 
of sunrise. 

Creep, silver on the field, the frost is welcome. 

Run on, yellow balls on the hills, and you tawny 
pumpkin flowers, chasing your lines of orange. 

Tawny days: and your face again. 



1 28 Smoke and Steel 



SLIPPERY 

THE six month child 

Fresh from the tub 

Wriggles in our hands. 

This is our fish child. 

Give her a nickname: Slippery. 






Smoke and Steel 129 



HELGA 

THE wishes on this child's mouth 
Came like snow on marsh cranberries; 
The tamarack kept something for her; 
The wind is ready to help her shoes. 
The north has loved her; she will be 
A grandmother feeding geese on frosty 
Mornings ; she will understand 
Early snow on the cranberries 
Better and better then. 



130 Smoke and Steel 



BABY TOES 

THERE is a blue star, Janet, 

Fifteen years' ride from us, 

If we ride a hundred miles an hour. 

There is a white star, Janet, 

Forty years' ride from us, 

If we ride a hundred miles an hour. 

Shall we ride 
To the blue star 
Or the white star? 



Smoke and Steel 131 



PEOPLE WITH PROUD CHINS 

I TELL them where the wind comes from, 

Where the music goes when the fiddle is in the box. 

Kids I saw one with a proud chin, a sleepyhead, 
And the moonline creeping white on her pillow. 
I have seen their heads in the starlight 
And their proud chins marching in a mist of stars. 

They are the only people I never lie to. 

I give them honest answers, 

Answers shrewd as the circles of white on brown 
chestnuts. 



,132 Smoke and Steel 



WINTER MILK 

THE milk drops on your chin, Helga, 

Must not interfere with the cranberry red of your 

cheeks 

Nor the sky winter blue of your eyes. 
Let your mammy keep hands off the chin. 
This is a high holy spatter of white on the reds and 

blues. 

Before the bottle was taken away, 

Before you so proudly began today 

Drinking your milk from the rim of a cup 

They did not splash this high holy white on your chin. 

There are dreams in your eyes, Helga. 
Tall reaches of wind sweep the clear blue. 
The winter is young yet, so young. 
Only a little cupful of winter has touched your lips. 
Drink on ... milk with your lips . . . dreams with 
your eyes. 



Smoke and Steel 133 



SLEEPYHEADS 

SLEEP is a maker of makers. Birds sleep. Feet cling 
to a perch. Look at the balance. Let the legs loosen, 
the backbone untwist, the head go heavy over, the 
whole works tumbles a done bird off the perch. 

Fox cubs sleep. The pointed head curls round into 
hind legs and tail. It is a ball of red hair. It is a muff 
waiting. A wind might whisk it in the air across 
pastures and rivers, a cocoon, a pod of seeds. The 
snooze of the black nose is in a circle of red hair. 

Old men sleep. In chimney corners, in rocking chairs, 
at wood stoves, steam radiators. They talk and forget 
and nod and are out of talk with closed eyes. For- 
getting to live. Knowing the time has come useless 
for them to live. Old eagles and old dogs run and 
fly in the dreams. 

Babies sleep. In flannels the papoose faces, the bam- 
bino noses, and dodo, dodo the song of many matush- 
kas. Babies a leaf on a tree in the spring sun. A 
nub of a new thing sucks the sap of a tree in the sun, 
yes a new thing, a what-?s-it? A left hand stirs, an 
eyelid twitches, the milk in the belly bubbles and gets 
to be blood and a left hand and an eyelid. Sleep is 
a maker of makers. 



134 Smoke and Steel 



SUMACH AND BIRDS 

IF you never came with a pigeon rainbow purple 
Shining in the six o'clock September dusk: 
If the red sumach on the autumn roads 
Never danced on the flame of your eyelashes : 
If the red-haws never burst in a million 
Crimson fingertwists of your heartcrying: 
If all this beauty of yours never crushed me 
Then there are many flying acres of birds for me, 
Many drumming gray wings going home I shall see, 
Many crying voices riding the north wind. 



Smoke and Steel 135 



WOMEN WASHING THEIR HAIR 

THEY have painted and sung 

the women washing their hair, 

and the plaits and strands in the sun, 

and the golden combs 

and the combs of elephant tusks 

and the combs of buffalo horn and hoof. 

The sun has been good to women, 

drying their heads of hair 

as they stooped and shook their shoulders 

and framed their faces with copper 

and framed their eyes with dusk or chestnut. 

The rain has been good to women. 
If the rain should forget, 
if the rain left off for a year 
the heads of women would wither, 
the copper, the dusk and chestnuts, go. 

They have painted and sung 
the women washing their hair 
reckon the sun and rain in, too. 



136 Smoke and Steel 



PEACH BLOSSOMS 

WHAT cry of peach blossoms 

let loose on the air today 
I heard with my face thrown 

in the pink-white of it all? 

in the red whisper of it all? 

What man I heard saying : 

Christ, these are beautiful ! 

And Christ and Christ was in his mouth, 
over these peach blossoms? 



Smoke and Steel 137 



HALF MOON IN A HIGH WIND 

MONEY is nothing now, even if I had it, 

mooney moon, yellow half moon, 
Up over the green pines and gray elms, 
Up in the new blue. 

Streel, streel, 

White lacey mist sheets of cloud, 
Streel in the blowing of the wind, 
Streel over the blue-and-moon sky, 
Yellow gold half moon. It is light 
On the snow ; it is dark on the snow, 
Streel, O lacey thin sheets, up in the new blue. 

Come down, stay there, move on. 

1 want you, I don't, keep all. 
There is no song to your singing. 
I am hit deep, you drive far, 

mooney yellow half moon, 
Steady, steady; or will you tip over? 
Or will the wind and the streeling 
Thin sheets only pass and move on 
And leave you alone and lovely? 

1 want you, I don't, come down, 

Stay there, move on. 
Money is nothing now, even if I had it. 



138 Smoke and Steel 



REMORSE 

THE horse's name was Remorse. 
There were people said, " Gee, what a nag ! " 
And they were Edgar Allan Poe bugs and so 
They called him Remorse. 

When he was a gelding 
He flashed his heels to other ponies 
And threw dust in the noses of other ponies 
And won his first race and his second 
And another and another and hardly ever 
Came under the wire behind the other runners. 

And so, Remorse, who is gone, was the hero of a play 
By Henry Blossom, who is now gone. 

What is there to a monicker? Call me anything. 
A nut, a cheese, something that the cat brought in. 

Nick me with any old name. 
Class me up for a fish, a gorilla, a slant head, an egg, 

a ham. 
Only . . . slam me across the ears sometimes . . . 

and hunt for a white star 
In my forehead and twist the bang of my forelock 

around it. 
Make a wish for me. Maybe I will light out like a 

streak of wind. 



Smoke and Steel 139 



RIVER MOONS 

The double moon, one on the high back drop of the 
west, one on the curve of the river face, 

The sky moon of fire and the river moon of water, 
I am taking these home in a basket, hung on an 
elbow, such a teeny weeny elbow, in my head. 

I saw them last night, a cradle moon, two horns of 
a moon, such an early hopeful moon, such a child's 
moon for all young hearts to make a picture of. 

The river I remember this like a picture the' river 
was the upper twist of a written question mark. 

I know now it takes many many years to write a river, 
a twist of water asking a question. 

And white stars moved when the moon moved, and 
one red star kept burning, and the Big Dipper was 
almost overhead. 



140 Smoke and Steel 



SAND SCRIBBLINGS 

THE wind stops, the wind begins. 
The wind says stop, begin. 

A sea shovel scrapes the sand floor. 
The shovel changes, the floor changes. 

The sandpipers, maybe they know. 
Maybe a three-pointed foot can tell. 
Maybe the fog moon they fly to, guesses. 

The sandpipers cheep " Here " and get away. 
Five of them fly and keep together flying. 

Night hair of some sea woman 
Curls on the sand when the sea leaves 
The salt tide without a good-by. 

Boxes on the beach are empty. 
Shake 'em and the nails loosen. 
They have been somewhere. 



Smoke and Steel 141 



HOW YESTERDAY LOOKED 

THE high horses of the sea broke their white riders 
On the walls that held and counted the hours 
The wind lasted. 

Two landbirds looked on and the north and the east 
Looked on and the wind poured cups of foam 
And the evening began. 

The old men in the shanties looked on and lit their 
Pipes and the young men spoke of the girls 
For a wild night like this. 

The south and the west looked on and the moon came 
When the wind went down and the sea was sorry 
And the singing slow. 

Ask how the sunset looked between the wind going 
Down and the moon coming up and I would struggle 
To tell the how of it. 

I give you fire here, I give you water, I give you 
The wind that blew them across and across, 
The scooping, mixing wind. 



142 Smoke and Steel 



PAULA 

NOTHING else in this song only your face. 

Nothing else here only your drinking, night-gray eyes. 

The pier runs into the lake straight as a rifle barrel. 
I stand on the pier and sing how I know you mornings. 
It is not your eyes, your face, I remember. 
It is not your dancing, race-horse feet. 
It is something else I remember you for on the pier 
mornings. 

Your hands are sweeter than nut-brown bread when 

you touch me. 
Your shoulder brushes my arm a south-west wind 

crosses the pier. 
I forget your hands and your shoulder and I say again : 

Nothing else in this song only your face. 
Nothing else here only your drinking, night-gray 
eyes. 



Smoke and Steel 143 



LAUGHING BLUE STEEL 

Two fishes swimming in the sea, 

Two birds flying in the air, 

Two chisels on an anvil maybe. 

Beaten, hammered, laughing blue steel to each other 

maybe. 
Sure I would rather be a chisel with you 

than a fish. 
Sure I would rather be a chisel with you 

than a bird. 

Take these two chisel-pals, O God. 
Take 'em and beat 'em, hammer 'em, 

hear 'em laugh. 



144 Smoke and Steel 



THEY ASK EACH OTHER WHERE THEY 
CAME FROM 

AM I the river your white birds fly over? 
Are you the green valley my silver channels roam? 
The two of us a bowl of blue sky day time 
and a bowl of red stars night time? 

Who picked you 

out of the first great whirl of nothings 

and threw you here? 



Smoke and Steel 145 



HOW MUCH? 

How much do you love me, a million bushels ? 
Oh, a lot more than that, Oh, a lot more. 

And to-morrow maybe only half a bushel ? 
To-morrow maybe not even a half a bushel. 

And is this your heart arithmetic? 

This is the way the wind measures the weather. 



146 Smoke and Steel 



THROWBACKS 

SOMEWHERE you and I remember we came. 

Stairways from the sea and our heads dripping. 

Ladders of dust and mud and our hair snarled. 

Rags of drenching mist and our hands clawing, climb- 
ing. 

You and I that snickered in the crotches and corners, 
in the gab of our first talking. 

Red dabs of dawn summer mornings and the rain 
sliding off our shoulders summer afternoons. 

Was it you and I yelled songs and songs in the nights 
of big yellow moons ? 



Smoke and Steel 147 



WIND SONG 

LONG ago I learned how to sleep, 

In an old apple orchard where the wind swept by 

counting its money and throwing it away, 
In a wind-gaunt orchard where the limbs forked out 

and listened or never listened at all, 
In a passel of trees where the branches trapped the 

wind into whistling, " Who, who are you ? " 
I slept with my head in an elbow on a summer after- 
noon and there I took a sleep lesson. 
There I went away saying: I know why they sleep, 

I know how they trap the tricky winds. 
Long ago I learned how to listen to the singing wind 

and how to forget and how to hear the deep 

whine, 
Slapping and lapsing under the day blue and the night 

stars : 

Who, who are you? 

Who can ever forget 
listening to the wind go by 
counting its money 
and throwing it away? 



148 Smoke and Steel 



THREE SPRING NOTATIONS ON BIPEDS 



THE down drop of the blackbird, 
The wing catch of arrested flight, 
The stop midway and then off: 

off for triangles, circles, loops 

of new hieroglyphs 
This is April's way: a woman: 
" O yes, I'm here again and your heart 

knows I was coming." 



White pigeons rush at the sun, 

A marathon of wing feats is on: 

" Who most loves danger ? Who most loves 

wings ? Who somersaults for God's sake 

in the name of wing power 

in the sun and blue 

on an April Thursday." 
So ten winged heads, ten winged feet, 

race their white forms over Elmhurst. 
They go fast: once the ten together were 

a feather of foam bubble, a chrysanthemum 

whirl speaking to silver and azure. 



Three Spring Notations on Bipeds 149 



The child is on my shoulders. 

In the .prairie moonlight the child's legs 

hang over my shoulders. 
She sits on my neck and I hear her calling 

me a good horse. 
She slides down and into the moon silver of 

a prairie stream 
She throws a stone and laughs at the clug-clug. 



150 Smoke and Steel 



SANDHILL PEOPLE 

I TOOK away three pictures. 

One was a white gull forming a half-mile arch from 
the pines toward Waukegan. 

One was a whistle in the little sandhills, a bird crying 
either to the sunset gone or the dusk come. 

One was three spotted waterbirds, zigzagging, cutting 
scrolls and jags, writing a bird Sanscrit of wing 
points, half over the sand, half over the water, 
a half-love for the sea, a half-love for the land. 

I took away three thoughts. 

One was a thing my people call " love," a shut-in river 
hunting the sea, breaking white falls between tall 
clefs of hill country. 

One was a thing my people call " silence," the wind 
running over the butter faced sand-flowers, run- 
ning over the sea, and never heard of again. 

One was a thing my people call " death," neither a 
whistle in the little sandhills, nor a bird Sanscrit 
of wing points, yet a coat all the stars and seas 
have worn, yet a face the beach wears between 
sunset and dusk. 



Smoke and Steel 151 



FAR ROCKAWAY NIGHT TILL MORNING 

WHAT can we say of the night ? 
The fog night, the moon night, 

the fog moon night last night ? 

There swept out of. the sea a song. 
There swept out of the sea 
torn white plungers. 
There came on the coast wind drive 
In the spit of a driven spray, 
On the boom of foam and rollers, 
The cry of midnight to morning: 

Hoi-a-loa. 
Hoi-a-loa. 
Hoi-a-loa. 

Who has loved the night more than I have ? 
Who has loved the fog moon night last night 
more than I have? 

Out of the sea that song 

can I ever forget it? 
Out of the sea those plungers 

-can I remember anything else? 
Out of the midnight morning cry : Hoi-a-loa : 

how can I hunt any other songs now ? 



152 Smoke and Steel 



HUMMINGBIRD WOMAN 

WHY should I be wondering 

How you would look in black velvet and yellow ? 

in orange and green? 

I who cannot remember whether it was a dash of blue 
Or a whirr of red under your willow throat 
Why do I wonder how you would look in humming- 
bird feathers? 



Smoke and Steel 153 



BUCKWHEAT 



THERE was a late autumn cricket, 

And two smoldering mountain sunsets 

Under the valley roads of her eyes. 

There was a late autumn cricket, 

A hangover of summer song, 

Scraping a tune 

Of the late night clocks of summer, 

In the late winter night fireglow, 

This in a circle of black velvet at her neck. 



In pansy eyes a flash, a thin rim of white light, a 
beach bonfire ten miles across dunes, a speck of 
a fool star in night's half circle of velvet. 

In the corner of the left arm a dimple, a mole, a 
forget-me-not, and it fluttered a hummingbird 1 
wing, a blur in the honey-red clover, in the honey- 
white buckwheat. 



J54 Smoke and Steel 



BLUE RIDGE 

BORN a million years ago you stay here a million 
years . . . watching the women come and live 
and be laid away . . . you and they thin-gray 
thin-dusk lovely. 

So it goes: either the early morning lights are lovely 
or the early morning star. 

I am glad I have seen racehorses, women, mountains. 



Smoke and Steel 155 



VALLEY SONG 

THE sunset swept 

To the valley's west, you remember. 

The frost was on. 
A star burnt blue. 
We were warm, you remember, 
And counted the rings on a moon. 

The sunset swept 
To the valley's west 
And was gone in a big dark door of stars. 



156 Smoke and Steel 



MIST FORMS 

THE sheets of night mist travel a long valley. 

I know why you came at sundown in a scarf mist. 

What was it we touched asking nothing and asking all ? 
How many times can death come and pay back what 
we saw? 

In the oath of the sod, the lips that swore, 
In the oath of night mist, nothing and all, 
A riddle is here no man tells, no woman. 



Smoke and Steel 157 



PIGEON 

THE flutter of blue pigeon's wings 

Under a river bridge 

Hunting a clean dry arch, 

A corner for a sleep 

This flutters here in a woman's hand. 

A singing sleep cry, 

A drunken poignant two lines of song, 

Somebody looking clean into yesterday 

And remembering, or looking clean into 

To-morrow, and reading, 

This sings here as a woman's sleep cry sings. 

Pigeon friend of mine, 
Fly on, sing on. 



158 Smoke and Steel 



CHASERS 

THE sea at its worst drives a white foam up, 

The same sea sometimes so easy and rocking with 

green mirrors. 

So you were there when the white foam was up 
And the salt spatter and the rack and the dulse 
You were done fingering these, and high, higher and 

higher 
Your feet went and it was your voice went, " Hai, 

hai, hai," 
Up where the rocks let nothing live and the grass was 

gone, 

Not even a hank nor a wisp of sea moss hoping. 
Here your feet and your same singing, " Hai, hai, hai." 

Was there anything else to answer than, " Hai, hai, 

hai"? 
Did I go up those same crags yesterday and the day 

before 
Scruffing my shoe leather and scraping the tough 

gnomic stuff 

Of stones woven on a cold criss-cross so long ago? 
Have I not sat there . . . watching the white foam up, 
The hoarse white lines coming to curve, foam, slip 

back? 
Didn't I learn then how the call conies, " Hai, hai, 

hai"? 



Smoke and Steel 159 



HORSE FIDDLE 

FIRST I would like to write for you a poem to be 

shouted in the teeth of a strong wind. 
Next I would- like to write one 'for you to sit on a 
hill and read down the river valley on a late 
summer afternoon, reading it in less than a whis- 
per to Jack on his soft wire legs learning to stand 
up and preach, Jack-in-the-pulpit. 
As many poems as I have written to the moon and 
the streaming of the moon spinners of light, so 
many of the summer moon and the winter moon I 
would like to shoot along to your ears for nothing, 
for a laugh, a song, 

for nothing at all, 
for one look from you, 
for your face turned away 
and your voice in one clutch 
half way between a tree wind moan 
and a night-bird sob. 

Believe nothing of it all, pay me nothing, open your 
window for the other singers and keep it shut 
for me. 
The road I am on is a long road and I can go hungry 

again like I have gone hungry before. 
What else have I done nearly all my life than go 
hungry and go on singing? 



160 Horse Fiddle 

Leave me with the hoot owl. 

I have slept in a blanket listening. 

He learned it, he must have learned it 

From two moons, the summer moon, 

And the winter moon 

And the streaming of the moon spinners of light. 



Smoke and Steel 161 



TIMBER WINGS 

THERE was a wild pigeon came often to Hinkley's 

timber. 
Gray wings that wrote their loops and triangles on 

the walnuts and the hazel. 

There was a wild pigeon. 

There was a summer came year by year to Hinkley's 

timber. 
Rainy months and sunny and pigeons calling and one 

pigeon best of all who came. 
There was a summer. 

It is so long ago I saw this wild pigeon and listened. 
It is so long ago I heard the summer song of the 
pigeon who told me why night comes, why death 
and stars come, why the whippoorwill remembers 
three notes only and always. 

It is so long ago; it is like now and today; the gray 
wing pigeon's way of telling it all, telling it to the 
walnuts and hazel, telling it to me. 
So there is memory. 

So there is a pigeon, a summer, a gray wing 
beating my shoulder. 



1 62 Smoke and Steel 



NIGHT STUFF 

LISTEN a while, the moon is a lovely woman, a lonely 
woman, lost in a silver dress, lost in a circus 
rider's silver dress. 

Listen a while, the lake by night is a lonely woman, a 
lovely woman, circled with birches and pines mix- 
ing their green and white among stars shattered 
in spray clear nights. 

I know the moon and the lake have twisted the roots 
under my heart the same as a lonely woman, a 
lovely woman, in a silver dress, in a circus rider's 
silver dress. 



Smoke and Steel 163 



SPANISH 

FASTEN black eyes on me. 

I ask nothing of you under the peach trees, 

Fasten your black eyes in my gray 

with the spear of a storm. 
The air under the peach blossoms is a haze of pink. 



164 Smoke and Steel 



SHAG-BARK HICKORY 

IN the moonlight under a shag-bark hickory tree 
Watching the yellow shadows melt in hoof -pools, 
Listening to the yes and the no of a woman's hands, 
I kept my guess why the night was glad. 

The night was lit with a woman's eyes. 
The night was crossed with a woman's hands, 
The night kept humming an undersong. 






Smoke and Steel 165 



THE SOUTH WIND SAYS SO 

IF the oriole calls like last year 

when the south wind sings in the oats, 

if the leaves climb and climb on a bean pole 

saying over a song learnt from the south wind, 

if the crickets send up the same old lessons 

found when the south wind keeps on coming, 

we will get by, we will keep on coming, 

we will get by, we will come along, 

we will fix our hearts over, 

the south wind says so. 



ACCOMPLISHED FACTS 



Smoke and Steel 169 



ACCOMPLISHED FACTS 

EVERY year Emily Dickinson sent one friend 
the first arbutus bud in her garden. 

In a last will and testament Andrew Jackson 
remembered a friend with the gift of George 
Washington's pocket spy-glass. 

Napoleon too, in a last testament, mentioned a silver 
watch taken from the bedroom of Frederick the Great, 
and passed along this trophy to a particular friend. 

O. Henry took a blood carnation from his coat lapel 
and handed it to a country girl starting work in a 
bean bazaar, and scribbled : " Peach blossoms may or 
may not stay pink in city dust." 

So it goes. Some things we buy, some not. 
Tom Jefferson was proud of his radishes, and Abe 
Lincoln blacked his own boots, and Bismarck called 
Berlin a wilderness of brick and newspapers. 

So it goes. There are accomplished facts. 
Ride, ride, ride on in the great new blimps 
Cross unheard-of oceans, circle the planet. 
When you come back we may sit by five hollyhocks. 
We might listen to boys fighting for marbles. 
The grasshopper will look good to us. 

So it goes . . . 



170 Smoke and Steel 



GRIEG BEING DEAD 

GRIEG being dead we may speak of him and his art. 
Grieg being dead we can talk about whether he was 

any good or not. 
Grieg being with Ibsen, Bjornson, Lief Ericson and 

the rest, 
Grieg being dead does not care a hell's hoot what 

we say. 

Morning, Spring, Anitra's Dance, 

He dreams them at the doors of new stars. 



Smoke and Steel 171 



CHORDS 

IN the morning, a Sunday morning, shadows of sea 
and adumbrants of rock in her eyes . . . horse- 
back in leather boots and leather gauntlets by 
the sea. 

In the evening, a Sunday evening, a rope of pearls 
on her white shoulders . . . and a speaking, 
brooding black velvet, relapsing to the voiceless 
. . . battering Russian marches on a piano . . . 
drive of blizzards across Nebraska. 

Yes, riding horseback on hills by the sea ... sitting 
at the ivory keys in black velvet, a rope of pearls 
on white shoulders. 



172 Smoke and Steel 



BOGHEADS 

AMONG the grassroots 
In the moonlight, who comes circling, 

red tongues and high noses? 
Is one of 'em Buck and one of 'em 

White Fang? 

In the moonlight, who are they, cross-legged, 
telling their stories over and over? 

Is one of 'em Martin Eden and one of 'em Larsen 
the Wolf? 

Let an epitaph read: 

He loved the straight eyes of dogs 
and the strong heads of men. 



Smoke and Steel 173 



TRINITY PEACE 

THE grave of Alexander Hamilton is in Trinity yard 
at the end of Wall Street. 

The grave of Robert Fulton likewise is in Trinity 
yard where Wall Street stops. 

And in this yard stenogs, bundle boys, scrubwomen, 
sit on the tombstones, and walk on the grass of 
graves, speaking of war and weather, of babies, 
wages and love. 

An iron picket fence . . . and streaming thousands 
along Broadway sidewalks . . . straw hats, 
faces, legs ... a singing, talking, hustling river 
. . . down the great street that ends with a Sea. 

. . . easy is the sleep of Alexander Hamilton. 
. . . easy is the sleep of Robert Fulton. 
. . . easy are the great governments and the great 
steamboats. 



174 Smoke and Steel 

PORTRAIT 
(For S. A.) 

To write one book in five years 

or five books in one year, 

to be the painter and the thing painted, 

. . . where are we, bo? 

Wait get his number. 

The barber shop handling is here 

and the tweeds, the cheviot, the Scotch Mist, 

and the flame orange scarf. 

Yet there is more he sleeps under bridges 
with lonely crazy men; he sits in country 
jails with bootleggers; he adopts the children 
of broken-down burlesque actresses ; he has 
cried a heart of tears for Windy MacPherson's 
father ; he pencils wrists of lonely women. 

Can a man sit at a desk in a skyscraper in Chicago 
and be a harnessmaker in a corn town in Iowa 
and feel the tall grass coming up in June 
and the ache of the cottonwood trees 
singing with the prairie wind? 



Smoke and Steel 175 



POTOMAC RIVER MIST 

ALL the policemen, saloonkeepers and efficiency ex- 
perts in Toledo knew Bern Dailey; secretary ten 
years when Whitlock was mayor. 

Pickpockets, yeggs, three card men, he knew them all 
and how they flit from zone to zone, birds of 
wind and weather, singers, fighters, scavengers. 

The Washington monument pointed to a new moon 
for us and a gang from over the river sang rag- 
time to a ukelele. 

The river mist marched up and down the Potomac, 
we hunted the fog-swept Lincoln Memorial, white 
as a blond woman's arm. 

We circled the city of Washington and came back home 
four o'clock in the morning, passing a sign : House 
Where Abraham Lincoln Died, Admission 25 
Cents. 

I got a letter from him in Sweden and I sent him a 
postcard from Norway . . every newspaper from 
America ran news of " the flu." 

The path of a night fog swept up the river to the 
Lincoln Memorial when I saw it again and alone 
at a winter's end, the marble in the mist white 
as a blond woman's arm. 



176 Smoke and Steel 



JACK LONDON AND O. HENRY 

BOTH were jailbirds ; no speechmakers at all ; 
speaking best with one foot on a brass rail; 
a beer glass in the left hand and the right 
hand employed for gestures. 

And both were lights snuffed out ... no warning 
... no lingering: 

Who knew the hearts of these boozefighters ? 



Smoke and Steel 177 



HIS OWN FACE HIDDEN 

HOKUSAI'S portrait of himself 

Tells what his hat was like 

And his arms and legs. The only faces 

Are a river and a mountain 

And two laughing farmers. 

The smile of Hokusai 
is under his hat. 



178 Smoke and Steel 



CUPS OF COFFEE 

THE haggard woman with a hacking cough and a 
deathless love whispers of white flowers ... in 
your poem you pour like a cup of coffee, Gabriel. 

The slim girl whose voice was lost in the waves of 
flesh piled on her bones . . . and the woman who 
sold to many men and saw her breasts shrivel 
... in two poems you pour these like a cup of 
coffee, Francois. 

The woman whose lips are a thread of scarlet, the 
woman whose feet take hold on hell, the woman 
who turned to a memorial of salt looking at the 
lights of a forgotten city ... in your affidavits, 
ancient Jews, you pour these like cups of coffee. 

The woman who took men as snakes take rabbits, a 
rag and a bone and a hank of hair, she whose 
eyes called men to sea dreams and shark's teeth 
. . . in a poem you pour this like a cup of coffee, 
Kip. 

Marching to the footlights in night robes with spots 
of blood, marching in white sheets muffling the 
faces, marching with heads in the air they come 
back and cough and cry and sneer : . . .in your 
poems, men, you pour these like cups of coffee. 



PASSPORTS 






Smoke and Steel 181 



SMOKE ROSE GOLD 

THE dome of the capitol looks to the Potomac river. 

Out of haze over the sunset, 

Out of a smoke rose gold: 
One star shines over the sunset. 
Night takes the dome and the river, the sun and the 

smoke rose gold, 

The haze changes from sunset to star. 
The pour of a thin silver struggles against the dark. 
A star might call : It's a long way across. 



i8a Smoke and Steel 



TANGIBLES 

(Washington, August, 1918) 

I HAVE seen this city in the day and the sun. 
I have seen this city in the night and the moon. 
And in the night and the moon I have seen a thing this 
city gave me nothing of in the day and the sun. 

The float of the dome in the day and the sun is one 

thing. 
The float of the dome in the night and the moon is 

another thing. 
In the night and the moon the float of the dome is a 

dream-whisper, a croon of a hope : " Not today, 

child, not today, lover; maybe tomorrow, child, 

maybe tomorrow, lover." 

Can a dome of iron dream deeper than living men? 

Can the float of a shape hovering among tree-tops 
can this speak an oratory sad, singing and red 
beyond the speech of the living men? 

A mother of men, a sister, a lover, a woman past the 

dreams of the living 
Does she go sad, singing and red out of the float of 

this dome? 

There is ... something . . . here . . . men die for. 



Smoke and Steel 183 



NIGHT MOVEMENT NEW YORK 

IN the night, when the sea-winds take the city in their 

arms, 
And cool the loud streets that kept their dust noon and 

afternoon ; 
In the night, when the sea-birds call to the lights of 

the city, 

The lights that cut on the skyline their name of a city ; 
In the night, when the trains and wagons start from 

a long way off 
For the city where the people ask bread and want 

letters ; 

In the night the city lives too the day is not all. 
In the night there are dancers dancing and singers 

singing, 

And the sailors and soldiers look for numbers on doors. 
In the night the sea-winds take the city in their arms. 



184 Smoke and Steel 



NORTH ATLANTIC 

WHEN the sea is everywhere 
from horizon to horizon . . 

when the salt and blue 

fill a circle of horizons . . 
I swear again how I know 
the sea is older than anything else 
and the sea younger than anything else. 

My first father was a landsman. 
My tenth father was a sea-lover, 

a gipsy sea-boy,. a singer of chanties. 

(Oh Blow the Man Down!) 

The sea is always the same: 
and yet the sea always changes. 

The sea gives all, 

and yet the sea keeps something back. 

The sea takes without asking. 

The sea is a worker, a thief and a loafer. 

Why does the sea let go so slow? 

Or never let go at all? 

The sea always the same 

day after day, 

the sea always the same 



North Atlantic 185 

night after night, 

fog on fog and never a star, 

wind on wind and running white sheets, 

bird on bird always a sea-bird 

so the days get lost: 

it is neither Saturday nor Monday, 

it is any day or no day, 

it is a year, ten years. 

Fog on fog and never a star, 
what is a man, a child, a woman, 
to the green and grinding sea? 
The ropes and boards squeak and groan. 

On the land they know a child they have named Today. 

On the sea they know three children they have named : 

Yesterday, Today, To-morrow. 

I made a song to a woman : it ran : 
I have wanted you. 
I have called to you 
on a day I counted a thousand years. 

In the deep of a sea-blue noon 

many women run in a man's head, 

phantom women leaping from a man's forehead 

. . to the railings . . . into the sea ... to the 

sea rim . . . 

. . a man's mother ... a man's wife . . . other 

women . . . 
I asked a sure-footed sailor how and he said : 

I have known many women but there is only one sea. 



1 86 North Atlantic 

I saw the North Star once 

and our old friend, The Big Dipper, 

only the sea between us : 

" Take away the sea 

and I lift The Dipper, 

sWing the handle of it, 

drink from the brim of it." 



I saw the North Star one night 

and five new stars for me in the rigging ropes, 

and seven old stars in the cross of the wireless 

plunging by night, 

plowing by night 
Five new cool stars, seven old warm stars. 



I have been let down in a thousand graves 

by my kinfolk. 
I have been left alone with the sea and the sea's 

wife, the wind, for my last friends 
And my kinfolk never knew anything about it at all. 

Salt from an old work of eating our graveclothes is 

here. 

The sea-kin of my thousand graves, 
The sea and the sea's wife, the wind, 
They are all here to-night 

between the circle of horizons, 
between the cross of the wireless 
and the seven old warm stars. 



North Atlantic 187 

Out of a thousand sea-holes I came yesterday. 
Out of a thousand sea-holes I come to-morrow. 



I am kin of the changer. 

I am a son of the sea 

and the sea's wife, the wind. 



i88 Smoke and Steel 



FOG PORTRAIT 

RINGS of iron gray smoke ; a woman's steel face . . . 
looking . . . looking. 

Funnels of an ocean liner negotiating a fog night; 
pouring a taffy mass down the wind; layers of 
soot on the top deck; a taffrail . . . and a 
woman's steel face . . . looking . . . looking. 

Cliffs challenge humped ; sudden arcs form on a gull's 
wing in the storm's vortex ; miles of white horses 
plow through a stony beach ; stars, clear sky, and 
everywhere free climbers calling; and a woman's 
steel face . . . looking . . . looking . . . 



Smoke and Steel 189 



FLYING FISH 

I HAVE lived in many half-worlds myself . . . and 
so I know you. 

i 

I leaned at a deck rail watching a monotonous sea, the 
same circling birds and the same plunge of fur- 
rows carved by the plowing keel. 

I leaned so ... and you fluttered struggling between 
two waves in the air now . . . and then under 
the water and out again . , . a fish ... a bird 
. . . a fin thing ... a wing thing. 

Child of water, child of air, fin thing and wing thing 
... I have lived in many half worlds myself . . . 
and so I know you. 



190 Smoke and Steel 



HOME THOUGHTS 

THE sea rocks have a green moss. 
The pine rocks have red berries. 
I have memories of you. 



Speak to me of how you miss me. 
Tell me the hours go long and slow. 

Speak to me of the drag on your heart, 
The iron drag of the long days. 

I know hours empty as a beggar's tin cup on a rainy 
day, empty as a soldier's sleeve with an arm lost. 

Speak to me . . . 



Smoke and Steel 191 



IN THE SHADOW OF THE PALACE 

LET us go out of the fog, John, out of the filmy per- 
sistent drizzle on the streets of Stockholm, let 
us put down the collars of our raincoats, take 
off our hats and sit in the newspaper office. 

Let us sit among the telegrams clickety-click the 
kaiser's crown goes into the gutter and the Hohen- 
zollern throne of a thousand years falls to pieces 
a one-hoss shay. 

It is a fog night out and the umbrellas are up and 
the collars of the raincoats and all the steam- 
boats up and down the Baltic sea have their lights 
out and the wheelsmen sober. 

Here the telegrams come one king goes and another 
butter is costly: there is no butter to buy for 
our bread in Stockholm and a little patty of 

butter costs more than all the crowns of Germany. 

/ 

Let us go out in the fog, John, let us roll up our 
raincoat collars and go on the streets where men 
are sneering at the kings. 



192 Smoke and Steel 



TWO ITEMS 

STRONG rocks hold up the riksdag bridge . . . always 
strong river waters shoving their shoulders against 
them . . . 

In the riksdag to-night three hundred men are talking 
to each other about more potatoes and bread for 
the Swedish people to eat this winter. 

In a boat among calm waters next to the running 
waters a fisherman sits in the dark and I, leaning 
at a parapet, see him lift a net and let it down 
... he waits ... the waters run ... the 
riksdag talks ... he lifts the net and lets it 
down . . . 

Stars lost in the sky ten days of drizzle spread over 
the sky saying yes-yes. 



Every afternoon at four o'clock fifteen apple women 
who have sold their apples in Christiania meet 
at a coffee house and gab. 

Every morning at nine o'clock a girl wipes the win- 
dows of a hotel across the street from the post- 
office in Stockholm. 

I have pledged them when I go to California next 
summer and see the orange groves splattered with 
yellow balls 

I shall remember other people half way round the 
world. 



Smoke and Steel 193 



STREETS TOO OLD 

I WALKED among the streets of an old city and the 
streets were lean as the throats of hard seafish 
soaked in salt and kept in barrels many years. 

How old, how old, how old, we are : the walls went 
on saying, street walls leaning toward each other 
like old women of the people, like old midwives 
tired and only doing what must be done. 

The greatest the city could offer me, a stranger, was 
statues of the kings, on all corners bronzes of 
kings ancient bearded kings who wrote books 
and spoke of God's love for all people and young 
kings who took forth armies out across the fron- 
tiers splitting the heads of their opponents and 
enlarging their kingdoms. 

Strangest of all to me, a stranger in this old city, was 
the murmur always whistling on the winds twist- 
ing out of the armpits and fingertips of the kings 
in bronze: Is there no loosening? Is this for 
always ? 

In an early snowflurry one cried: Pull me down 
where the tired old midwives no longer look at 
me, throw the bronze of me to a fierce fire and 
make me into neckchains for dancing children. 



194 Smoke and Steel 



SAVOIR FAIRE 

CAST a bronze of my head and legs and put them on 
the king's street. 

Set the cast of me here alongside Carl XII, making 
two Carls for the Swedish people and the utlanders 
to look at between the palace and the Grand 
Hotel. 

The summer sun will shine on both the Carls, and 
November drizzles wrap the two, one in tall 
leather boots, one in wool leggins. 

Also I place it in the record : the Swedish people may 
name boats after me or change the name of a 
long street and give it one of my nicknames. 

The old men who beset the soil of Sweden and own 
the titles to the land the old men who enjoy a 
silken shimmer to their chin whiskers when they 
promenade the streets named after old kings 
if they forget me the old men whose varicose 
veins stand more and more blue on the calves of 
their legs when they take their morning baths 
attended by old women born to the bath service 
of old men and young if these old men say 
another King Carl should have a bronze on the 
king's street rather than a Fool Carl 

Then I would hurl them only another fool's laugh 



Savoir Falre 195 

I would remember last Sunday when I stood on a 
Jutland of fire-born red granite watching the 
drop of the sun in the middle of the afternoon and 
the full moon shining over Stockholm four o'clock 
in the afternoon. 

If the young men will read five lines of one of my 
poems I will let the kings have all the bronze 
I ask only that one page of my writings be a 
knapsack keepsake of the young men who are the 
bloodkin of those who laughed nine hundred years 
ago: We are afraid of nothing only the sky 
may fall on us. 



196 Smoke and Steel 



MOHAMMED BEK HADJETLACHE 

THIS Mohammedan colonel from the Caucasus yells 
with his voice and wigwags with his arms. 

The interpreter translates, " I was a friend of Korni- 
lov, he asks me what to do and I tell him." 

A stub of a man, this Mohammedan colonel ... a 
projectile shape ... a bald head hammered . . . 

" Does he fight or do they put him in a cannon and 
shoot him at the enemy?" 

This fly-by-night, this bull-roarer who knows every- 
body. 

" I write forty books, history of Islam, history of 
Europe, true religion, scientific farming, I am 
the Roosevelt of the Caucasus, I go to America 
and ride horses in the moving pictures for $500,- 
000, you get $50,000 ..." 

" I have 30,000 acres in the Caucasus, I have a stove 
factory in Petrograd the bolsheviks take from 
me, I am an old friend of the Czar, I am an old 
family friend of Clemenceau ..." 

These hands strangled three fellow workers for the 
czarist restoration, took their money, sent them 
in sacks to a river bottom . . . and scandalized 
Stockholm with his gang of strangler women. 

Mid-sea strangler hands rise before me illustrating a 
wish, " I ride horses for the moving pictures in 
America, $500,000, and you get ten per cent . . ." 

This rider of fugitive dawns. . . . 



Smoke and Steel 197 



HIGH CONSPIRATORIAL PERSONS 

/ 

OUT of the testimony of such reluctant lips, out of 
the oaths and mouths of such scrupulous liars, 
out of perjurers whose hands swore by God to 
the white sun before all men, 

Out of a rag saturated with smears and smuts gath- 
ered from the footbaths of kings and the loin 
cloths of whores, from the scabs of Babylon and 
Jerusalem to the scabs of London and New York, 

From such a rag that has wiped the secret sores of 
kings and overlords across the rrilleniums of 
human marches and babblings, 

From such a rag perhaps I shall wring one reluctant 
desperate drop of blood, one honest-to-God spot 
of red speaking a mother-heart. 
December, 1918. 

Christiania, Norway 






198 Smoke and Steel 



BALTIC FOG NOTES 

(Bergen) 

SEVEN days all fog, all mist, and the turbines pound- 
ing through high seas. 
I was a plaything, a rat's neck in the teeth of a scuffling 

mastiff. 

Fog and fog and no stars, sun, moon. 
Then an afternoon in fjords, low-lying lands scrawled 

in granite languages on a gray sky, 
A night harbor, blue dusk mountain shoulders against 

a night sky, 

And a circle of lights blinking: Ninety thousand 
people here. 
Among the Wednesday night thousands in 

goloshes and coats slickered for rain, 
I learned how hungry I was for streets and 
people. 



I would rather be water than anything else. 

I saw a drive of salt fog and mist in the North Atlantic 

and an iceberg dusky as a cloud in the gray of 

morning. 
And I saw the dream pools of fjords in Norway . . . 

and the scarf of dancing water on the rocks and 

over the edges of mountain shelves. 



Baltic Fog Notes 199 

Bury me in a mountain graveyard in Norway. 
Three tongues of water sing around it with snow 
from the mountains. 



Bury me in the North Atlantic. 
A fog there from Iceland will be a murmur in gray 
over me and a long deep wind sob always. 

Bury me in an Illinois cornfield. 

The blizzards loosen their pipe organ voluntaries in 

winter stubble and the spring rains and the fall 

rains bring letters from the sea. 



CIRCLES OF DOORS 



Smoke and Steel 203 



CIRCLES OF DOORS 

I LOVE him, I love him, ran the patter of her lips 
And she formed his name on her tongue and sang 
And she sent him word she loved him so much, 
So much, and death was nothing ; work, art, home, 
All was nothing if her love for him was not first 
Of all ; the patter of her lips ran, I love him, 
I love him ; and he knew the doors that opened 
Into doors and more doors, no end of doors, 
And full length mirrors doubling and tripling 
The apparitions of doors : circling corridors of 
Looking glasses and doors, some with knobs, some 
With no knobs, some opening slow to a heavy push, 
And some jumping open at a touch and a hello. 
And he knew if he so wished he could follow her 
Swift running through circles of doors, hearing 
Sometimes her whisper, I love him, I love him, 
And sometimes only a high chaser of laughter 
Somewhere five or ten doors ahead or five or ten 
Doors behind, or chittering h-st, h-st, among corners 
Of the tall full-length dusty looking glasses. 
I love, I love, I love, she sang short and quick in 
High thin beaten soprano and he knew the meanings, 
The high chaser of laughter, the doors on doors 
And the looking glasses, the room to room hunt, 
The ends opening into new ends always. 



2O4 Smoke and Steel 



HATE 

ONE man killed another. The saying between them 
had been " I'd give you the shirt off my back." 

The killer wept over the dead. The dead if he looks 
back knows the killer was sorry. It was a shot 
in one second of hate out of ten years of love. 

Why is the sun a red ball in the six o'clock mist? 

Why is the moon a tumbling chimney ? . . . tumbling 
. . . tumbling . . . " I'd give you the shirt off 
my back" . . . And I'll kill you if my head 
goes wrong. 



Smoke and Steel 205 



TWO STRANGERS BREAKFAST 

THE law says you and I belong to each other, George. 
The law says you are mine and I am yours, George. 
And there are a million miles of white snowstorms, a 

million furnaces of hell, 
Between the chair where you sit and the chair where 

I sit. 
The law says two strangers shall eat breakfast together 

after nights on the horn of an Arctic moon. 



206 Smoke and Steel 



SNOW 

SNOW took us away from the smoke valleys into white 
mountains, we saw velvet blue cows eating a 
vermillion grass and they gave us a pink milk. 

Snow changes our bones into fog streamers caught 
by the wind and spelled into many dances. 

Six bits for a sniff of snow in the old days bought 
us bubbles beautiful to forget floating long arm 
women across sunny autumn hills. 

Our bones cry and cry, no let-up, cry their telegrams : 
More, more a yen is on, a long yen and God only 
knows when it will end. 

In the old days six bits got us snow and stopped the 
yen now the government says : No, no, when our 
bones cry their telegrams: More, more. 

The blue cows are- dying, no more pink milk, no more 
floating long arm women, the hills are empty 
us for the smoke valleys sneeze and shiver and 
croak, you dopes the government says : No, no. 



Smoke and Steel 207 



DANCER 

THE lady in red, she in the chile con carne red, 

Brilliant as the shine of a pepper crimson in the 
summer sun, 

She behind a false-face, the much sought-after dancer, 
the most sought-after dancer of all in this mas- 
querade, 

The lady in red sox and red hat, ankles of willow, 
crimson arrow amidst the Spanish clashes of 
music, 

I sit in a corner 

watching her dance first with one man 

and then another. 



2C>8 Smoke and Steel 



PLASTER 

" I KNEW a real man once," says Agatha in the splen- 
dor of a shagbark hickory tree. 

Did a man touch his lips to Agatha? Did a man hold 
her in his arms? Did a man only look at her 
and pass by? 

Agatha, far past forty in a splendor of remembrance, 
says, " I knew a real man once." 



Smoke and Steel 209 



CURSE OF A RICH POLISH PEASANT ON HIS 

SISTER WHO RAN AWAY WITH A 

WILD MAN 

FELIKSOWA has gone again from our house and this 

time for good, I hope. 
She and her husband took with them the cow father 

gave them, and they sold it. 
She went like a swine, because she called neither on 

me, her brother, nor on her father, before leaving 

for those forests. 
That is where she ought to live, with bears, not with 

men. 
She was something of an ape before and there, with 

her wild husband, she became altogether an ape. 
No honest person would have done as they did. 
Whose fault is it? And how much they have cursed 

me and their father! 
May God not punish them for it. They think only 

about money; they let the church go if they can 

only live fat on their money. 



2IO Smoke and Steel 



WOMAN WITH A PAST 

THERE was a woman tore off a red velvet gown 
And slashed the white skin of her right shoulder 
And a crimson zigzag wrote a finger nail hurry. 

There was a woman spoke six short words 
And quit a life that was old to her 
For a life that was new. 

There was a woman swore an oath 
And gave hoarse whisper to a prayer 
And it was all over. 

She was a thief and a whore and a kept woman, 
She was a thing to be used and played with. 
She wore an ancient scarlet sash. 

The story is thin and wavering, 

White as a face in the first apple blossoms, 

White as a birch in the snow of a winter moon. 

The story is never told. 

There are white lips whisper alone. 

There are red lips whisper alone. 

In the cool of the old walls, 
In the white of the old walls, 
The red song is over. 



Smoke and Steel 21 1 



WHITE HANDS 

FOR the second time in a year this lady with the white 
hands is brought to the west room second floor 
of a famous sanatorium. 

Her husband is a cornice manufacturer in an Iowa 
town and the lady has often read papers on Vic- 
torian poets before the local literary club. 

Yesterday she washed her hands forty seven times 
during her waking hours and in her sleep moaned 
restlessly attempting to clean imaginary soiled 
spots off her hands. 

Now the head physician touches his chin with a 
crooked forefinger. 



212 Smoke and Steel 



AN ELECTRIC SIGN GOES DARK 

POLAND, France, Judea ran in her veins, 
Singing to Paris for bread, singing to Gotham in a 
fizz at the pop of a bottle's cork. 

" Won't you come and play wiz me " she sang . . . and 
" I just can't make my eyes behave." 

" Higgeldy-Piggeldy," " Papa's Wife," " Follow Me " 
were plays. 

Did she wash her feet in a tub of milk ? Was a strand 
of pearls sneaked from her trunk? The news- 
papers asked. 

Cigarettes, tulips, pacing horses, took her name. 

Twenty years old ... thirty . . . forty . . . 

Forty-five and the doctors fathom nothing, the doctors 
quarrel, the doctors use silver tubes feeding 
twenty-four quarts of blood into the veins, the 
respects of a prize-fighter, a cab driver. 

And a little mouth moans : It is easy to die when they 
are dying so many grand deaths in France. 

A voice, a shape, gone. 

A baby bundle from Warsaw . . . legs, torso, head 
. . . on a hotel bed at The Savoy. 



An Electric Sign Goes Dark 213 

The white chiselings of flesh that flung themselves in 
somersaults, straddles, for packed houses: 

A memory, a stage and footlights' out, an electric sign 
on Broadway dark. 

She belonged to somebody, nobody. 

No one man owned her, no ten nor a thousand. 

She belonged to many thousand men, lovers of the 

white chiseling of arms and shoulders, the ivory 

of a laugh, the bells of song. 

Railroad brakemen taking trains across Nebraska 
prairies, lumbermen jaunting in pine and tamarack 
of the Northwest, stock ranchers in the middle 
west, mayors of southern cities 

Say to their pals and wives now : I see by the papers 
Anna Held is dead. 



214 Smoke and Steel 



THEY BUY WITH AN EYE TO LOOKS 

THE fine cloth of your love might be a fabric of Egypt, 
Something Sinbad, the sailor, took away from robbers, 
Something a traveler with plenty of money might 

pick up 

And bring home and stick on the walls and say: 
" There's a little thing made a hit with me 
When I was in Cairo I think I must see Cairo again 

some day." 
So there are cornice manufacturers, chewing gum 

kings, 

Young Napoleons who corner eggs or corner cheese, 
Phenoms looking for more worlds to corner, 
And still other phenoms who lard themselves in 
And make a killing in steel, copper, permanganese, 
And they say to random friends in for a call : 
" Have you had a look at my wife? Here she is. 
Haven't I got her dolled up for fair ? " 
O-ee ! the fine cloth of your love might be a fabric of 

Egypt. 



Smoke and Steel 215 



PROUD AND BEAUTIFUL 

AFTER you have spent all the money modistes and 
manicures and mannikins will take for fixing you 
over into a thing the people on the streets call 
proud and beautiful, 

After the shops and fingers have worn out all they 
have and know and can hope to have and know 
for the sake of making you what the people on 
the streets call proud and beautiful, 

After there is absolutely nothing more to be done for 
the sake of staging you as a great enigmatic bird 
of paradise and they must all declare you to be 
proud and beautiful, 

After you have become the last word in good looks, 
insofar as good looks may be fixed and formu- 
lated, then, why then, there is nothing more to 
it then, it is then you listen and see how voices 
and eyes declare you to be proud and beautiful. 



216 Smoke and Steel 



TELEGRAM 

I SAW a telegram handed a two hundred pound man 
at a desk. And the little scrap of paper charged 
the air like a set of crystals in a chemist's tube 
to a whispering pinch of salt. 

Cross my heart, the two hundred pound man had just 
cracked a joke about a new hat he got his wife, 
when the messenger boy slipped in and asked 
him to sign. He gave the boy a nickel, tore the 
envelope and read. 

Then he yelled " Good God," jumped for his hat and 
raincoat, ran for the elevator and took a taxi 
to a railroad depot. 

As I say, it was like a set of crystals in a chemist's 
tube and a whispering pinch of salt. 

I wonder what Diogenes who lived in a tub in the 
sun would have commented on the affair. 

I know a shoemaker who works in a cellar slamming 
half -soles onto shoes, and when I told him, he 
said : " I pay my bills, I love my wife, and I am 
not afraid of anybody." 



Smoke and Steel 217 



GLIMMER 

LET down your braids of hair, lady. 
Cross your legs and sit before the looking-glass 
And gaze long on lines under your eyes. 
Life writes; men dance. 

And you know how men pay women. 



2i8 Smoke and Steel 



WHITE ASH 

THERE is a woman on Michigan Boulevard keeps a 
parrot and goldfish and two white mice. 

She used to keep a houseful of girls in kimonos and 
three pushbuttons on the front door. 

Now she is alone with a parrot and goldfish and two 
white mice . . . but these are some of her thoughts : 

The love of a soldier on furlough or a sailor on shore 
leave burns with a bonfire red and saffron. 

The love of an emigrant workman whose wife is a 
thousand miles away burns with a blue smoke. 

The love of a young man whose sweetheart married 
an older man for money burns with a sputtering un- 
certain flame. 

And there is a love . . . one in a thousand . . ., 
burns clean and is gone leaving a white ash. . . . 

And this is a thought she never explains to the parrot 
and goldfish and two white mice. 



Smoke and Steel 219 



TESTIMONY REGARDING A GHOST 

THE roses slanted crimson sobs 
On the night sky hair of the women, 
And the long light-fingered men 
Spoke to the dark-haired women, 
" Nothing lovelier, nothing lovelier." 
How could he sit there among us all 
Guzzling blood into his guts, 
Goblets, mugs, buckets 
Leaning, toppling, laughing 
With a slobber on his mouth, 
A smear of red on his strong raw lips, 
How could he sit there 
And only two or three of us see him ? 

There was nothing to it. 
He wasn't there at all, of course. 

The roses leaned from the pots. 
The sprays snot roses gold and red 
And the roses slanted crimson sobs 

In the night sky hair 
And the voices chattered on the way 
To the frappe, speaking of pictures, 
Speaking of a strip of black velvet 
Crossing a girlish woman's throat, 
Speaking of the mystic music flash 
Of pots and sprays of roses, 
" Nothing lovelier, nothing lovelier." 



22O Smoke and Steel 



PUT OFF THE WEDDING FIVE TIMES AND 
NOBODY COMES TO IT 

(Handbook for Quarreling Lovers) 

I THOUGHT of offering you apothegms. 

I might have said, " Dogs bark and the wind carries 
it away." 

I might have said, " He who would make a door of 
gold must knock a nail in every day." 

So easy, so easy it would have been to inaugurate a 
high impetuous moment for you to look on before 
the final farewells were spoken. 

You who assumed the farewells in the manner of 
people buying newspapers and reading the head- 
lines and all peddlers of gossip who buttonhole 
each other and wag their heads saying, " Yes, I 
heard all about it last Wednesday." 

I considered several apothegms. 

" There is no love but service," of course, would only 
initiate a quarrel over who has served and how 
and when. 

" Love stands against fire and flood and much bitter- 
ness," would only initiate a second misunderstand- 
ing, and bickerings with lapses of silence. 

What is there in the Bible to cover our case, or Shake- 
spere? What poetry can help? Is there any left 
but Epictetus? 



Put off the Wedding 221 

Since you have already chosen to interpret silence for 
language and silence for despair and silence for 
contempt and silence for all things but love, 

Since you have already chosen to read ashes where 
God knows there was something else than ashes, 

Since silence and ashes are two identical findings for 
your eyes and there are no apothegms, worth 
handing out like a hung jury's verdict for a record 
in our own hearts as well as the community at 
large, 

I can only remember a Russian peasant who told me 
his grandfather warned him : If you ride too good 
a horse you will not take the straight road to '* 
town. 

It will always come back to me in the blur of that 
hokku: The heart of a woman of thirty is like 
the red ball of the sun seen through a mist. 
Or I will remember the witchery in the eyes of a girl 
at a barn dance one winter night in Illinois saying : 
Put off the wedding five times and nobody 
comes to it. 



222 'Smoke and Steel 



BABY VAMPS 

BABY vamps, is it harder work than it used to be ? 
Are the new soda parlors worse than the old time 

saloons ? 

Baby vamps, do you have jobs in the day time 
or is this all you do? 
do you come out only- at night ? 
In the winter at the skating rinks, in the summer at the 

roller coaster parks, 
Wherever figure eights are carved, by skates in winter, 

by roller coasters in summer, 
Wherever the whirligigs are going and chicken Spanish 

and hot dog are sold, 

There you come, giggling baby vamp, there you come 
with your blue baby eyes, saying: 
Take me along. 



Smoke and Steel 223 



VAUDEVILLE DANCER 

ELSIE FLIMMERWON, you got a job now with a jazz 
outfit in vaudeville. 

The houses go wild when you finish the act shimmying 
a fast shimmy to The Livery Stable Blues. 

It is long ago, Elsie Flimmerwon, I saw your mother 
over a washtub in a grape arbor when your father 
came with the locomotor ataxia shuffle. 

It is long ago, Elsie, and now they spell your name 
with an electric sign. 

Then you were a little thing in checked gingham 
and your mother wiped your nose and said: You 
little fool, keep off the streets. 

Now you are a big girl at last and streetfuls of 
people read your name and a line of people shaped 
like a letter S stand at the box office hoping to 
see you shimmy. 



224 Smoke and Steel 



BALLOON FACES 

THE balloons hang on wires in the Marigold Gardens. 

They spot their yellow and gold, they juggle their blue 
and red, they float their faces on the face of the 
sky. 

Balloon face eaters sit by hundreds reading the eat 
cards, asking, "What shall we eat?" and the 
waiters, " Have you ordered ? " they are sixty 
ballon faces sifting white over the tuxedoes. 

Poets, lawyers, ad men, mason contractors, smart- 
alecks discussing " educated jackasses," here they 
put crabs into their balloon faces. 

Here sit the heavy balloon face women lifting crimson 
lobsters into their crimson faces, lobsters out of 
Sargossa sea bottoms. 

Here sits a man cross-examining a woman, " Where 
were you last night? What do you do with all 
your money? Who's buying your shoes now, 
anyhow ? " 

So they sit eating whitefish, two balloon faces swept 
on God's night wind. 

And all the time the balloon spots on the wires, a little 
mile of festoons, they play their own silence play 
of film yellow and film gold, bubble blue and bub- 
ble red. 

The wind crosses the town, the wind from the west 
side comes to the banks of marigolds boxed in the 
Marigold Gardens. 



Balloon Faces 225 

Night moths fly and fix their feet in the leaves and 
eat and are seen by the eaters. 

The jazz outfit sweats and the drums and the saxo- 
phones reach for the ears of the eaters. 

The chorus brought from Broadway works at the fun 
and the slouch of their shoulders, the kick of their 
ankles, reach for the eyes of the eaters. 

These girls from Kokomo and Peoria, these hungry 
girls, since they are paid-for, let us look on and 
listen, let us get their number. 

Why do I go again to the balloons on the wires, some- 
thing for nothing, kin women of the half-moon, 
dream women? 

And the half-moon swinging on the wind crossing the 
town these two, the half -moon and the wind 
this will be about all, this will be about all. 

Eaters, go to it; your mazuma pays for it all; it's a 
knockout, a classy knockout and payday always 
comes. 

The moths in the marigolds will do for me, the half- 
moon, the wishing wind and the little mile of 
balloon spots on wires this will be about all, this 
will be about all. 



HAZE 



Smoke and Steel 229 



HAZE 

KEEP a red heart of memories 

Under the great gray rain sheds of the sky, 

Under the open sun and the yellow gloaming embers. 

Remember all paydays of lilacs and songbirds; 

All starlights of cool memories on storm paths. 

Out of this prairie rise the faces of dead men. 
They speak to me. I can not tell you what they say. 

Other faces rise on the prairie. 

They are the unborn. The future. 

Yesterday and to-morrow cross and mix on the sky- 
line 

The two are lost in a purple haze. One forgets. One 
waits. 

In the yellow dust of sunsets, in the meadows of 
vermilion eight o'clock June nights . . . the 
dead men and the unborn children speak to me 
... I can not tell you what they say . . . you 
listen and you know. 

I don't care who you are, man : 

I know a woman is looking for you 

and her soul is a corn-tassel kissing a south-west wind. 



230 Haze 

(The farm-boy whose face is the color of brick-dust, 
is calling the cows ; he will form the letter X with 
crossed streams of milk from the teats; he will 
beat a tattoo on the bottom of a tin pail with X's 
of milk.) 

I don't care who you are, man: 
I know sons and daughters looking for you 
And they are gray dust working toward star paths 
And you see them from a garret window when you 

laugh 
At your luck and murmur, " I don't care." 

I don't care who you are, woman: 
I know a man is looking for you 
And his soul is a south-west wind kissing a corn- 
tassel. 

(The kitchen girl on the farm is throwing oats to the 
chickens and the buff of their feathers says hello 
to the sunset's late maroon.) 

I don't care who you are, woman: 
I know sons and daughters looking for you 
And they are next year's wheat or the year after 
hidden in the dark and loam. 

My love is a yellow hammer spinning circles in Ohio, 
Indiana. My love is a redbird shooting flights 
in straight lines in Kentucky and Tennessee. My 
love is an early robin flaming an ember of copper 



Haze 231 

on her shoulders in March and April. My love 
is a graybird living in the eaves of a Michigan 
house all winter. Why is my love always a crying 
thing of wings? 

On the Indiana dunes, in the Mississippi marshes, I 

have asked: Is it only a fishbone on the beach? 
Is it only a dog's jaw or a horse's skull whitening in 

the sun? Is the red heart of man only ashes? 

Is the flame of it all a white light switched off 

and the power house wires cut? 

Why do the prairie roses answer every summer ? Why 
do the changing repeating rains come back out 
of the salt sea wind-blown? Why do the stars 
keep their tracks? Why do the cradles of the 
sky rock new babies? 



232 Smoke and Steel 



CADENZA 

THE knees 

of this proud woman 
are bone. 

The elbows 

of this proud woman 
are bone. 

The summer-white stars 
and the winter-white stars 

never stop circling 

around this proud woman. 

The bones 

of this proud woman 
answer the vibrations 

of the stars. 

In summer 
the stars speak deep thoughts 

In the winter 
the stars repeat summer speeches. 

The knees 

of this proud woman 
know these thoughts 

and know these speeches 
of the summer and winter stars. 






Smoke and Steel 233 



MEMORANDA 

THIS handful of grass, brown, says little. This quar- 
ter mile field of it, waving seeds ripening in the 
sun, is a lake of luminous firefly lavender. 



Prairie roses, two of them, climb down the sides of 
a road ditch. In the clear pool they find their 
faces along stiff knives of grass, and cat-tails 
who speak and keep thoughts in beaver brown. 



These gardens empty; these fields only flower ghosts; 
these yards with faces gone; leaves speaking as 
feet and skirts in slow dances to slow winds; I 
turn my head and say good-by to no one who 
hears; I pronounce a useless good-by. 



234 Smoke and Steel 



POTOMAC TOWN IN FEBRUARY 

THE bridge says : Come across, try me ; see how good 

I am. 
The big rock in the river says: Look at me; learn 

how to stand up. 
The white water says: I go on; around, under, over, 

I go on. 
A kneeling, scraggly pine says: I am here yet; they 

nearly got me last year. 
A sliver of moon slides by on a high wind calling: I 

know why; I'll see you to-morrow; I'll tell you 

everything to-morrow. 



Smoke and Steel 235 



BUFFALO DUSK 

THE buffaloes are gone. 

And those who saw the buffaloes are gone. 

Those who saw the buffaloes by thousands and how 
they pawed the prairie sod into dust with their 
hoofs, their great heads down pawing on in a 
great pageant of dusk, 

Those who saw the buffaloes are gone. 

And the buffaloes are gone. 



236 Smoke and Steel 



CORN HUT TALK 

WRITE your wishes 
on the door 
and come in. 

Stand outside 

in the pools of the harvest moon. 

Bring in 
the handshake of the pumpkins. 

There's a wish 

for every hazel nut? 
There's a hope 

for every corn shock ? 
There's a kiss 

for every clumsy climbing shadow? 

Clover and the bumblebees once, 
high winds and November rain now. 

Buy shoes 

for rough weather in November. 
Buy shirts 

to sleep outdoors when May comes. 



Corn Hut Talk 237 

Buy me 
something useless to remember you by. 

Send me 
a sumach leaf from an Illinois hill. 

In the faces marching in the firelog flickers, 
In the fire music of wood singing to winter, 
Make my face march through the purple and ashes. 
Make me one of the fire singers to winter. 



238 Smoke and Steel 



BRANCHES 

THE dancing girls here . . . after a long night of 

it ... 

The long beautiful night of the wind and rain in April, 
The long night hanging down from the drooping 

branches of the top of a birch tree, 
Swinging, swaying, to the wind for a partner, to the 

rain for a partner. 
What is the humming, swishing thing they sing in 

the morning now? 
The rain, the wind, the swishing whispers of the long 

slim curve so little and so dark on the western 

morning sky . . . these dancing girls here on an 

April early morning . . . 
They have had a long cool beautiful night of it with 

their partners learning this year's song of April. 



Smoke and Steel 239 



RUSTY CRIMSON 
(Christmas Day, 1917) 

THE five o'clock prairie sunset is a strong man going 
to sleep after a long day in a cornfield. 

The red dust of a rusty crimson is fixed with two 
fingers of lavender. A hook of smoke, a woman's 
nose in charcoal and . . '. nothing. 

The timberline turns in a cover of purple. A grain 
elevator humps a shoulder. One steel star whisks 
out a pointed fire. Moonlight comes on the 
stubble. 



" Jesus in an Illinois barn early this morning, the 
baby Jesus ... in flannels ..." 



240 Smoke and Steel 



LETTER S 

THE river is gold under a sunset of Illinois. 
It is a molten gold someone pours and changes. 
A woman mixing a wedding cake of butter and eggs 
Knows what the sunset is pouring on the river here. 
The river twists in a letter S. 

A gold S now speaks to the Illinois sky. 



Smoke and Steel 241 



WEEDS 

FROM the time of the early radishes 
To the time of the standing corn 
Sleepy Henry Hackerman hoes. 

There are laws in the village against weeds. 

The law says a weed is wrong and shall be killed. 

The weeds say life is a white and lovely thing 

And the weeds come on and on in irrepressible regi- 
ments. 

Sleepy Henry Hackerman hoes; and the village law 
uttering a ban on weeds is unchangeable law. 



242 Smoke and Steel 



NEW FARM TRACTOR 

SNUB nose, the guts of twenty mules are in your 
cylinders and transmission. 

The rear axles hold the kick of twenty Missouri 
jackasses. 

It is in the records of the patent office and the ads 
there is twenty horse power pull here. 

The farm boy says hello to you instead of twenty 
mules he sings to you instead of ten span of 
mules. 

A bucket of oil and a can of grease is your hay and 
oats. 

Rain proof and fool proof they stable you anywhere 
in the fields with the stars for a roof. 

I carve a team of long ear mules on the steering wheel 
it's good-by now to leather reins and the songs 
of the old mule skinners. 



Smoke and Steel 243 



PODS 

PEA pods cling to stems. 

Neponset, the village, 

Clings to the Burlington railway main line. 

Terrible midnight limiteds roar through 

Hauling sleepers to the Rockies and Sierras. 

The earth is slightly shaken 

And Neponset trembles slightly in its sleep. 



244 Smoke and Steel 



HARVEST SUNSET 

RED gold of pools, 

Sunset furrows six o'clock, 

And the farmer done in the fields 

And the cows in the barns with bulging udders. 

Take the cows and the farmer, 

Take the barns and bulging udders. 

Leave the red gold of pools 

And sunset furrows six o'clock. 

The farmer's wife is singing. 

The farmer's boy is whistling. 

I wash my hands in red gold of pools. 






Smoke and Steel 245 



NIGHTS NOTHINGS AGAIN 

WHO knows what I know 
when I have asked the night questions 
and the night has answered nothing 
only the old answers? 

Who picked a crimson cryptogram, 

the tail light of a motor car turning a corner, 

or the midnight sign of a chile con carne place, 

or a man out of the ashes of false dawn muttering 

"hot-dog" to the night watchmen: 
Is there a spieler who has spoken the word or taken 

the number of night's nothings ? am I the spieler ? 

or you? 

Is there a tired head 

the night has not fed and rested 

and kept on its neck and shoulders ? 

Is there a wish 
of man to woman 
and woman to man 
the night has not written 
and signed its name under? 

Does the night forget 
as a woman forgets? 
and remember 
as a woman remembers? 



246 Night's Nothings Again 

Who gave the night 
this head of hair, 
this gipsy head 
calling: Come-on? 

Who gave the night anything at all 
and asked the night questions 
and was laughed at? 

Who asked the night 

for a long soft kiss 

and lost the half-way lips? 

who picked a red lamp in a mist? 

Who saw the night 

fold its Mona Lisa hands 

and sit half-smiling, half-sad, 

nothing at all, 

and everything, 

all the world? 

Who saw the night 

let down its hair 

and shake its bare shoulders 

and blow out the candles of the moon, 

whispering, snickering, 

cutting off the snicker . . and sobbing . , 

out of pillow-wet kisses and tears? 

Is the night woven of anything else 
than the secret wishes of women, 
the stretched empty arms of women? 
the hair of women with stars and roses? 



Night's Nothings Again 247 

I asked the night these questions. 

I heard the night asking me these questions. 

I saw the night 
put these whispered nothings 
across the city dust and stones, 
across a single yellow sunflower, 
one stalk strong as a woman's wrist; 

And the play of a light rain, 

the jig-time folly of a light rain, 

the creepers of a drizzle on the sidewalks 

for the policemen and the railroad men, 

for the home-goers and the homeless, 

silver fans and funnels on the asphalt, 

the many feet of a fog mist that crept away ; 

I saw the night 
put these nothings across 
and the night wind came saying: Come-on: 
and the curve of sky swept off white clouds 
and swept on white stars over Battery to Bronx, 
scooped a sea of stars over Albany, Dobbs Ferry, Cape 
Horn, Constantinople. 

I saw the night's mouth and lips 

strange as a face next to mine on a pillow 

and now I know . . . as I knew always . . . 

the night is a lover of mine . . . 

I know the night is ... everything. 

I know the night is ... all the world. 



248 Night's Nothings Again 

I have seen gold lamps in a lagoon 
play sleep and murmur 
with never an eyelash, 
never a glint of an eyelid, 
quivering in the water-shadows. 

A taxi whizzes by, an owl car clutters, passengers yawn 
reading street signs, a bum on a park bench shifts, 
another bum keeps his majesty of stone stillness, 
the forty-foot split rocks of Central Park sleep 
the sleep of stone whalebacks, the cornices of the 
Metropolitan Art mutter their own nothings to the 
men with rolled-up collars on the top of a bus : 
Breaths of the sea salt Atlantic, breaths of two rivers, 
and a heave of hawsers and smokestacks, the 
swish of multiplied sloops and war dogs, the hesi- 
tant hoo-hoo of coal boats: among these I listen 
to Night calling: 

I give you what money can never buy : all other lovers 
change : all others go away and come back and go 
away again : 

I am the one you slept with last night. 

I am the one you sleep with tonight and 

tomorrow night. 

I am the one whose passion kisses 
keep your head wondering 
and your lips aching 
to sing one song 
never sung before 
at night's gipsy head 
calling: Come-on. 



Night's Nothings Again 249 

These hands that slid to my neck and held me, 

these fingers that told a story, 

this gipsy head of hair calling: Come-on: 

can anyone else come along now 

and put across night's nothings again? 

I have wanted kisses my heart stuttered at asking, 
I have pounded at useless doors and called my people 

fools. 
I have staggered alone in a winter dark making 

mumble songs 
to the sting of a blizzard that clutched and swore. 

It was the night in my blood: 
open dreaming night, 
night of tireless sheet-steel blue : 

The hands of God washing something, 
feet of God walking somewhere. 



PANELS 



Smoke and Steel 253 



PANELS 

THE west window is a panel of marching onions. 
Five new lilacs nod to the wind and fence boards. 
The rain dry fence boards, the stained knot holes, 

heliograph a peace. 
(How long ago the knee drifts here and a blizzard 

howling at the knot holes, 

whistling winter war drums?) 



254 Smoke and Steel 



DAN 

EARLY May, after cold rain the sun baffling cold wind. 
Irish setter pup finds a corner near the cellar door, 

all sun and no wind, 

Cuddling there he crosses forepaws and lays his skull 
Sideways on this pillow, dozing in a half-sleep, 
Browns of hazel nut, mahogany, rosewood, played off 

against each other on his paws 

and head. 



Smoke and Steel 255 



WHIFFLETREE 

GIVE me your anathema. 

Speak new damnations on my head. 

The evening mist in the hills is soft. 

The boulders on the road say communion. 

The farm dogs look out of their eyes and keep thoughts 

from the corn cribs. 

Dirt of the reeling earth holds horseshoes. 
The rings in the whiffletree count their secrets. 
Come on, you. 



256 Smoke and Steel 



MASCOTS 

I WILL keep you and bring hands to hold you against 

a great hunger. 
I will run a spear in you for a great gladness to die 

with. 
I will stab you between the ribs of the left side with 

a great love worth remembering. 



Smoke and Steel 257 



THE SKYSCRAPER LOVES NIGHT 

ONE by one lights of a skyscraper fling their checker- 
ing cross work on the velvet gown of night. 

I believe the skyscraper loves night as a woman and 
brings her playthings she asks for, brings her a 
velvet gown, 

And loves the white of her shoulders hidden under 
the dark feel of it all. 

The masonry of steel looks to the night for somebody 

it loves, 

He is a little dizzy and almost dances . . . waiting 
. dark . 



258 Smoke and Steel 



NEVER BORN 

THE time has gone by. 

The child is dead. 

The child was never even born. 

Why go on ? Why so much as begin ? 

How can we turn the clock back now 

And not laugh at each other 

As ashes laugh at ashes? 



Smoke and Steel 259 



THIN STRIPS 

IN a jeweler's shop I saw a man beating 
out thin sheets of gold. I heard a woman 
laugh many years ago. 

Under a peach tree I saw petals scattered 
. . torn strips of a bride's dress. I heard 
a woman laugh many years ago. 



260 Smoke and Steel 



FIVE CENT BALLOONS 

PIETRO has twenty red and blue balloons on a string. 
They flutter and dance pulling Pietro's arm. 
A nickel apiece is what they sell for. 

Wishing children tag Pietro's heels. 
He sells out and goes the streets alone. 



Smoke and Steel 261 



MY PEOPLE 

MY people are gray, 

pigeon gray, dawn gray, storm gray. 
I call them beautiful, 

and I wonder where they are goir>g. 



262, Smoke and Steel 



SWIRL 

A SWIRL in the air where your head was once, here. 
You walked under this tree, spoke to a moon for me 
I might almost stand here and believe you alive. 



Smoke and Steel 263 



WISTFUL 

WISHES left on your lips 
The mark of their wings. 
Regrets fly kites in your eyes. 



264 Smoke and Steel 



BASKET 

SPEAK, sir, and be wise. 
Speak choosing your words, sir, 

like an old woman over a bushel 

of apples. 



Smoke and Steel 265 



FIRE PAGES 

I WILL read ashes for you, if you ask me. 

I will look in the fire and tell you from the gray lashes 

And out of the red and black tongues and stripes, 

I will tell how fire comes 

And how fire runs far as the sea. 



a66 Smoke and Steel 



FINISH 

DEATH comes once, let it be easy. 

Ring one bell for me once, let it go at that. 

Or ring no bell at all, better yet. 

Sing one song if I die. 

Sing John Brown's Body or Shout All Over God's 

Heaven. 
Or sing nothing at all, better yet. 

Death comes once, let it be easy. 



Smoke and Steel 267 



FOR YOU 

THE peace of great doors be for you. 
Wait at the knobs, at the panel oblongs. 
Wait for the great hinges. 

The peace of great churches be for you, 
Where the players of loft pipe organs 
Practice old lovely fragments, alone. 

The peace of great books be for you, 
Stains of pressed clover leaves on pages, 
Bleach of the light of years held in leather. 

The peace of great prairies be for you. 
Listen among windplayers in cornfields, 
The wind learning over its oldest music 

The peace of great seas be for you. 
Wait on a hook of land, a rock footing 
For you, wait in the salt wash. 

The peace of great mountains be for you, 

The sleep and the eyesight of eagles, 

Sheet mist shadows and the long look across. 

The peace of great hearts be for you, 
Valves of the blood of the sun, 
Pumps of the strongest wants we cry. 



:68 For You 

The peace of great silhouettes be for you, 
Shadow dancers alive in your blood now, 
Alive and crying, " Let us out, let us out." 

The peace of great changes be for you. 
Whisper, Oh beginners in the hills. 
Tumble, Oh cubs to-morrow belongs to you. 

The peace of great loves be for you. 

Rain, soak these roots ; wind, shatter the dry rot. 

Bars of sunlight, grips of the earth, hug these. 

The peace of great ghosts be for you, 

Phantoms of night-gray eyes, ready to go 

To the fog-star dumps, to the fire-white doors. 

Yes, the peace of great phantoms be for you, 
Phantom iron men, mothers of bronze, 
Keepers of the lean clean breeds. 



PS Sandburg, Carl 

3537 Smoke and steel 

A618S6 
1920 



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